YouTravel.Me Packs $ 1 Million To Pair Travelers With Organized Small-Group Adventures – TechCrunch
YouTravel.Me is the latest startup to raise venture capital funds as the travel industry recovers amid the global pandemic.
Over the past month, we’ve seen companies like Thatch raise $ 3 million for its platform for travel creators, travel tech company Hopper bring in $ 175 million, Wheel the World collect $ 2 million for its disabled-friendly vacation planner, Elude is raising $ 2.1 million to bring spontaneous travel back to a hard-hit industry and Wanderlog is pocketing $ 1.5 million for its free travel itineraries platform.
Today, YouTravel.Me joins them after raising $ 1 million to continue growing its online platform designed to match like-minded travelers on small-group adventures curated by travel experts. Starta VC led the round and was joined by Liqvest.com, Mission Gate and a group of individual investors like Bas Godska, general partner at Acrobator Ventures.
Olga Bortnikova, her husband Ivan Bortnikov and Ivan Mikheev founded the company in Europe three years ago. The idea for the business came to Bortnikova and Bortnikov when a trip to China went wrong after a tour operator sold them a package where the excursions turned out to be visits to souvenir shops. A delayed flight and other incidents along the way, and the couple set out to find better travel experiences and a way to share them with others. Not finding what they were looking for, they decided to create it themselves.
“It’s hard for adults to make friends, but when you go on a two-week trip with just 15 people in a group, you make a deep connection, share the same language and the same experiences,” Bortnikova told TechCrunch. “It’s our secret sauce – we want to make a connection. “
Much like a dating app, YouTravel.Me’s algorithms connect travelers to trips and getaways based on their interests, values, and past experiences. Matched individuals can connect with each via chat or voice, work with a travel expert, and make reservations. They also have a BeGuide offer for travel experts to research and create itineraries.
Since 2018, CEO Bortnikova said YouTravel.Me has become the leading travel market in Eastern Europe, amassing more than 15,900 tours in 130 countries and attracting more than 10,000 travelers and 4,200 travel experts to the platform. It was starting to diversify into international sales in 2020 when the global pandemic hit.
“Sales and tourism collapsed and we didn’t know what to do,” she said. “We have found that we have over 4,000 travel experts on our site and they feel lonely because the pandemic has been a test for the industry. We got that and created a community and educational product for them on how to grow and scale their business. “
After a McKinsey study showed that adventure travel is recovering faster than other sectors of the industry, the founders decided to tackle this market, being among 500 startups by the end of 2020. As a result, YouTravel.Me doubled its revenue while continuing a started business but wanted to enter the North American market.
The new funding will be rolled out into marketing in the United States, hiring and attracting more experts in travel, technology and product development, and increasing the gross value of goods to $ 2.7 million per month. ‘by the end of 2021, said Bortnikov. The goal is to bring the number of trips to 20,000 and its travel experts to 6,000 by early next year.
Godska, also an angel investor, heard about YouTravel.Me through a mutual friend. It happened to be around the same time that he was on vacation in Sri Lanka where he was one of the very few tourists. Godska was previously involved in online travel before as part of Orbitz in Europe and Russia, selling tour packages before setting up a venture capital fund.
“I was sitting there in the jungle with a bad internet connection, and it sparked my interest,” he said. “When I spoke with them, I felt the innovation and that bright vibe of the way they do this. It immediately attracted me to help support them. The whole thing organized is a very interesting movement. Independent travelers who wish to travel in groups are little affected by the traditional sector.