YouTravel.Me It’s the latest startup to raise some venture capital dollars as the travel industry recovers amid the global pandemic.
Over the last month, we’ve seen companies like Thatch raises $ 3 million for its platform aimed at travel creators, travel technology company Hopper raises $ 175 million, Wheel the World wins $ 2 million for your disabled-friendly vacation planner, Elude raising $ 2.1 million to bring spontaneous travel back to a badly affected industry and Wanderlog $ 1.5 million purse for its free travel itinerary platform.
Today YouTravel.Me is joining them after raising $ 1 million to continue developing their online platform designed to match like-minded travelers with small-group adventures hosted by travel experts. Starta VC led the round and was joined by Liqvest.com, Mission Gate and a group of individual investors including Bas Godska, General Partner of Acrobator Ventures.
Olga Bortnikova, her husband Ivan Bortnikov and Evan Mikheev founded the company in Europe three years ago. The idea for the company came about in Bortnikova and Bortnikov when a trip to China went awry after a tour operator sold them a package in which the excursions turned out to be trips to souvenir shops. A delayed flight and other mishaps along the way, and the couple went in search of better travel experiences and a way to share them with each other. When they couldn’t find what they were looking for, they decided to create it themselves.
“It’s difficult for adults to make friends, but when you’re on a two-week trip with just 15 people in a group, you form a deep connection, you share the same language and experiences,” Bortnikova told TechCrunch. “That’s our secret sauce, we want to make a connection.”
Like a dating app, YouTravel.Me algorithms connect travelers to trips and getaways based on their interests, values, and past experiences. Matched people can connect with each other via chat or voice, work with a travel expert, and complete their reservations. They also have a BeGuide offering for travel experts to research and create itineraries.
Since 2018, CEO Bortnikova said YouTravel.Me has become the leading travel market in Eastern Europe, racking up more than 15,900 trips in 130 countries and attracting more than 10,000 travelers and 4,200 travel experts to the platform. It was starting to expand into international sales in 2020 when the global pandemic hit.
“Sales and tourism plummeted and we didn’t know what to do,” he said. “We found that we have over 4,000 travel experts on our site and they feel alone because the pandemic was a test for the industry. We understood that and built a community and educational product for them on how to build and scale their business. “
After McKinsey Study proved that adventure travel recovered faster than other sectors of the industry, the founders decided to go after that market, becoming part of 500 Startups by the end of 2020. As a result, YouTravel.I doubled its income while it was still a bootstrap company. but it wanted to enter the North American market.
The new funding will be used in marketing in the US, hiring and attracting more travel, technology and product development experts and increasing the gross value of merchandise to $ 2.7 million per month by the end of 2021, Bortnikov said. The goal is to increase the number of trips to 20,000 and its travel experts to 6,000 by early next year.
Godska, also an angel investor, found out about YouTravel.Me from a mutual friend. It happened that it was at the same time that he was on vacation in Sri Lanka that he was one of the few tourists. Godska was previously involved in online travel before as part of Orbitz in Europe and in Russia selling tour packages before establishing a venture capital fund.
“I was sitting in the jungle with a bad internet connection and it piqued my interest,” he said. “When I spoke to them, I felt the innovation and this brilliant vibe of how they are doing it. I was instantly drawn in to help support them. Everything cured is a very interesting movement. Independent travelers who want to travel in a group do not have much to do with the traditional sector ”.