A big bet on “Mystery Vacations”: travel seed funding this week

Skift grip

A London startup is betting that travelers will take mystery vacations, learning their destinations at the airport. A Czech travel agency raises $100 million for its expansion. And more venture capital and funding news this week.

Tim Mullaney

Megha Chaturvedi has been married for nine years: she booked their holidays and her husband usually didn’t even know where they were going. Now she has turned that idea into a business.

Chaturvedi and two partners have just raised £1.75m (US$2.1m) in seed capital to turn London-based tour operator Journee into a bet that other people are like her husband: surprise them thoughtfully and they will have a great time.

It works a bit like Netflix: tell Journee’s algorithm what you’re looking for – scenery, history or local food – and it plans a trip that fits the customer’s budget. The company chooses accommodation, flights, activities and even restaurants for four days or more. (All journeys depart from London). Then, Journee makes a proposal telling the customer where he is going, without naming the city. The customer then decides whether to buy it or not.

“We never sent anyone to Paris,” Chaturvedi said. “We can match them to a trip that they end up loving, but would never think of on their own.”

The most common destination so far: Romania. It’s off the beaten path, pretty and has lots of medieval history, she says.

Chaturvedi and co-founders Ed Tribe and James Gillard worked together on online fashion site Depop. Depop founder Simon Beckerman and CEO Maria Raga both invested in Journee, in a round led by Fuel Ventures. The company opened Journeetrips.com in 2019, but the Covid pandemic set them back, Chaturvedi says. More than 1,500 customers have already taken the plunge, she said.

The customer receives a written travel pack with the name of the destination a week before departure, but most open it at the airport, the company says. No one gave up on a trip when they found out where they were going, Chaturvedi said. The company has a 4.9 rating on consumer review site Trustpilot, which reports 179 Journee reviews.

“At the end of the day, it works because people are having an amazing time,” Chaturvedi said.

In other travel tech funding this week:

  • Based in New York Kasheesh came out of stealth mode, announcing $5.5 million in funding led by Tribe Capital, Anthemis and Courtside Ventures. Other investors included NFL wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and actor Robin Wright. Its product is a browser extension that allows customers to split payment for travel and other purchases across different debit and credit cards. The idea is that Kasheesh allows consumers to spread the debt across the cards they already hold and maximize their rewards point accumulation. Kasheesh generates revenue from fees paid by credit card companies. Loyalty innovation has helped travel recover after the Covid pandemic, according to Skift.
  • Great Britain easyGuide, a business-to-consumer site selling destination attraction tickets, has raised perhaps the most unusual funding round of the week: £1m from UKTV Ventures, a subsidiary of British Broadcasting Corp. The wrinkle: the investment is in the form of advertising. The campaign begins next month and runs for a year, CEO Blake Anthony Reddy said in an email.
  • Kiwi.com, a Czech online travel agency, said it raised 100 million euros in a deal led by an undisclosed investor. Skift has it covered here.
  • Omioa Berlin-based seller of ground transportation services like bus and train tickets, has raised $80 million to support its expansion, mostly in the United States, says Skift’s Matt Parsons here.
  • Division, another ground transportation platform, raised €30 million in a funding round led by Lightrock. The company, also based in Berlin, has focused on Latin America and says it will serve 100 million people a year by the end of 2024.

Skift Cheat Sheet

Seed capital is the money used to start a business, often led by angel investors and friends or family.

A-Series funding usually comes from venture capitalists. The cycle aims to help startup founders ensure that their product is something customers actually want to buy.

B-series funding is mostly for venture capitalists that help a business grow faster. These fundraisers can help recruit skilled workers and develop profitable marketing.

C-Series financing generally consists of helping a company to grow, for example through acquisitions. In addition to VCs, hedge funds, investment banks, and private equity firms often participate.

D-Series, E, and, beyond These mostly mature companies and the funding cycle can help a company prepare to go public or be acquired. Various types of private investors could participate.

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