Wheel the World raises $ 2 million to bring unlimited experiences to travelers with limited accessibility – TechCrunch

Friends Alvaro Silberstein and Camilo Navarro came up with the idea of ​​the Roll the world Travel booking site after a 2016 trip to Torres del Paine National Park in Chile. Initially, they thought this kind of travel would be nearly impossible with Silberstein in a wheelchair after a car accident as a teenager left him paralyzed.

Turns out, it became the trip of a lifetime thanks to a successful crowdfunding campaign to fund a scouting trip and the purchase of a state-of-the-art hiking wheelchair. Silberstein said that with the help of Navarro and other friends, he became the first to complete the Patagonia trek in a wheelchair.

Then in 2018, while in graduate school at UC Berkeley, they decided to launch Wheel the World so that others in similar situations like Silberstein could find accessible travel experiences.

Three years later, about 1,300 people have booked trips through the Berkeley, California-based company’s website, which offers more than 400 listings to more than 50 destinations. On Monday, they announced $ 2 million in a seed round led by Chile Global Ventures and Dadneo, with the support of Plug N Play Tech Center and YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki.

“We have a clear belief and purpose to make the world accessible,” Silberstein said.

Wheel the World collects more than 200 data points about hotels through its Accessibility Mapping System, such as hotel room measurements, and digitizes them to build its market so travelers can determine whether that particular room will satisfy. your needs. Users enter the site and create a profile, describing their accessibility needs, and Wheel the World will recommend the best listings.

The company will also work with hotels and tours to attract this new segment of travelers and how to work with people who have disabilities, which according to Navarro were one billion people worldwide, along with another large population of family and friends who would be involved in travels. .

“Leveraging this handicap travel market will bring in more than $ 100 billion worldwide,” Silberstein added. In fact, in 2018 and 2019, travelers with disabilities made a total of 81 million trips, spending $ 58.7 billion on his own travel alone, according to a 2020 report by the Open Doors Organization, a nonprofit organization that teaches businesses how to make their goods and services accessible to people with disabilities.

Silberstein and Navarro plan to use the new funds to develop Wheel the World software, make additional hires, and add trip listings to the platform. Navarro expects to have more than 3,000 listings by the end of 2022. The company currently has 23 employees, and Silberstein plans to double that number over the next year.

Although the global pandemic was tough on the company, the founders said they used the time to design their system and think about their value proposition. The results appear to have paid off: The company posted its best months in each of the past three months, Silberstein said.

“This year we are seeing the travel inventory return, more people are vaccinated and we are boosting our inventory to grow closer to where our users live so they can travel closer to home and further afield,” he added.


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