In March this year, Airbnb shook the business world when it closed its series F funding round having raised more than $1 billion. The travel tech pioneer is now valued at $31 billion, which has set a precedent in the burgeoning sector. As another shocker for Silicon Valley, Airbnb is now in the black, reportedly profitable since the second half of 2016.
The Airbnb story may be the ultimate sign that travel tech is booming, but with Scotland’s own Skyscanner being acquired by Ctrip saw one of the biggest deals in European M&A last year. For the thousands of travel tech start-ups in Europe, this is testament to the sector’s growth potential.
In 2016, 200 travel tech businesses attracted £2.5 billion in funding. From a consumer perspective, three in four holidaymakers booked their vacations online, and those who still book their leisure time offline still use online tools to help make their decisions. Underscoring this trend, research from Statista reveals digital travel sales are forecast to reach $818 billion by 2020. A separate study from Travel Technology Europe projects that 58 per cent of travel industry businesses will raise their spend on tech in 2017.
Travel tech as a sector is also widening out, offering more than just online flights and hotel bookings. Entrepreneurs in this space are narrowly honing in on each sub-sector, including logistics, medical care, business travel, as well as cultural experiences. As Europe’s travel tech sector forges a new path, we take a look at some of the most promising travel start-ups to watch.
1) Hotelchamp: Amsterdam
Founded in 2015 by Kasper Middelkoop and Kristian Valk, Hotelchamp offers smart technology for hoteliers to boost direct revenue and build guest relations. Focused on enhancing guest engagement and delivering a personalised booking experience, Hotelchamp offers a suite of conversion tools (powered by AI and machine learning technologies) to incentivise online customers, while promoting a more sustainable future in which hotels have more control and are less dependent on third parties.
Hotelchamp has grown in two years to a team of 50+ employees and boasts a portfolio of clients including Millennium Hotel Group, The Athenaeum in London, Hotel Palazzo Versace in Dubai among others. Hotelchamp is trusted to support over 1,000 hotels from more than 40 countries. The company has $4.67 million funding under its belt and have recently been crowned winners at the Challenger of the Year Awards and were previously nominated as European Travel Innovator of the Year.
2) TravelPerk: Barcelona
TravelPerk is a free travel booking and management platform specifically designed for business travel. It delivers tools such as centralised invoicing, simplified itinerary emails and expenses integration to deliver a seamless service to users.
The company launched in 2015 by founders Avi Meir (who sold his previous startup Hotel Ninjas to Booking.com), Javier Suarez and Ron Levin. Holding the title as the number one travel management tool for small and medium sized businesses, TravelPerk has raised $8.5 million to date and May 2017 saw them win the Scale Startup Competition at the TNW Conference in Amsterdam.
3) VizEat: Paris
VizEat is the largest social eating platform, which connects travellers and local hosts around authentic immersive food experiences at their home setting: dinners, cooking classes, food tours and much more! It is a unique way to engage with locals from all around the world and to discover new cultures around food.
Launched in Paris by Jean-Michel Petit and Camille Rumani in 2014, the platform now has more than 25,000 hosts across 130 countries. To date the company has raised $5.55 million, closing their most recent funding round at the end of last year. Additionally, in this year Apple selected VizEat in the TOP 3 Apps of 2016 and CEO Tim Cook came for a VizEat lunch in Paris!
Its website and apps are available in English, French, German, Italian, Spanish and Chinese.
4) Stratajet, London
Stratajet was founded in 2011 by Jonathan Nicol, a pilot-turned computer scientist-turned commercial pilot-turned entrepreneur, who, frustrated by the inefficiency of the private jet travel industry, decided to do something about it. Stratajet was created to change the way people travel, by making the world’s supply of private jets more accessible. The model of the company works to help operators achieve maximum efficiency, whilst driving down the price of private jet travel through adapting existing empty legs to suit customers.
Stratajet has raised $16.84 million to date, with their most recent Series A of $8 million in May last year.
5) Gopili: Rennes
Gopili began life in 2009 under the name KelBillet, which started out as a site for buying and selling unused train tickets, enabling people to travel more for less money. Over time the company morphed into a multi-modal travel search engine, presenting data on domestic and international travel (including rail, bus, car-share and plane), launching wide across Europe under the name Gopili in December 2014. In 2015 it launched its three apps ‘KelBillet’ ‘KelBus’ and ‘Gopili’.
In 2016, the combined brands processed more than 70 million euros of business volume — impressive for a profitable company that has only raised about 2.2 million euro. Gopili’s platform also boasts 100 million users and is today available in UK, Spain, Germany, Italy and Russia.
6) MEDIGO: Berlin
Medigo was founded in 2014 providing an online search and engagement platform helping consumers book healthcare abroad, connecting patients and doctors globally. Founded by Pawel Cebula, Ieva Soblickaite and Ugur Samut the platform offers over 900 high-quality, internationally accredited hospitals and clinics and 1000s of expert doctors in more than 30 countries. MEDIGO has raised $11.83 million to date and aims to disrupt the entire healthcare industry by helping patients who desire access to high-quality clinics, hospitals or doctors, or who want to shorter waiting times alongside affordable treatment. The platform is completely free-to-use and is currently available in 5 languages: English, German, Spanish, Italian, and French.
7) Zizoo: Vienna
Zizoo is the leading global boat rental platform and community; providing a global digital booking platform and website connecting suppliers (charter companies) to travellers worldwide.
Founded in 2013 by Benito Gonzalez del Valle, Anna Banicevic, Sinan Masovic and Ivan Miletic Zizoo the company is disrupting the boat rental industry and building a global digital booking platform and community. The platform boasts 11,000 customer-reviewed boats in over 30 countries around the world and provides a community model, enabling reviews, communication, location based apps and services. Zizoo aims to make boat holidays affordable and accessible to everyone. The platform also provides charter companies with a photo and editorial service and a powerful inventory management tool. In total, the Austrian startup secured $2.75 million to date.