Funding for travel startups this week

Everyone got sick on the road. Business travelers and tourists alike know the hassle of trying to find a doctor in a strange city, and many of us know about ending up in strange little doctors’ offices that have risqué pictures of celebrity patients on the wall (yes, that really happened) because our hotels had deals with these doctors and about missing the chance to drive a venture capitalist’s Tesla Roadster back when they were exotics (that too) because that same fever forced us to cancel.

Now, a Miami-based startup called Track says it can make everything better

The brainchild of 36-year-old former pharmaceutical executive Josh Rome, Runway is shaping up to be the Roman or Hims of travel medicine, doing to travel diarrhea, motion sickness and malaria what previous startups did to erectile dysfunction and hair restoration. The idea: to allow travelers to arrange online consultations on common issues before departing, and have pre-departure medication delivered so travelers can be prepared.

The company has just raised $1.5 million in pre-seed venture capital from investors led by Pareto Holdings, a business incubator led by Shutterstock founder Jon Oringer.

The travel health market is a $12 billion-a-year industry, said Roma, now served by brick-and-mortar networks, the largest of which is Passport Health, and small, local doctors’ offices. By different estimates, he said, up to half of visitors from developing countries develop some disease that Runway is ready to treat. “Getting sick while traveling is more common than you might think,” he said.

And he would know: Runway’s idea crystallized when Rowe himself fell ill in Mexico City during the Covid pandemic. He had to deal with language problems and use drugs that were not made in a facility approved by the US Food and Drug Administration, he said. “I will never travel without antibiotics for travel diarrhea again,” he said.

Runway’s advantage over companies like Roman and Hims is that it will be able to market through tour operators and other partners, spending less than the cost of direct-to-consumer marketing that fuels household names, Rowe said. The breakthrough will come – if it ever happens – when Rowe can convince major online travel agencies to work with him, he said.

“My north star for the next 12 months is building our network,” he said. “One goal is to get to OTAs. If we can position our link next to the button to buy travel insurance, that would be nice.”

Check out the attractions

Imagine being a hotel manager trying to solve three related problems, post-Covid (or during lingering Covid): guests don’t like a long check-in and ride-hailing price spikes, the hotel needs to increase revenue by selling guests on local attractions and room upgrades, and management is not staffed to address either of the first two.

israeli startup duvet raised a $10 million Series A round from a group led by the billionaire Ofer family, through its venture investment vehicle XT Hi-Tech, for technology it says will help all three.

The idea is a “guest management platform”, techspeak for a white-label app that allows hotels to expedite check-in by handing out contracts, arranging a fixed-price taxi in advance, and allowing guests to scan passports in advance. ; sell room upgrades and hotel services, from restaurants to pre-arrival massages, and personalize the advice concierges give on what to do nearby, tailoring recommendations for business travelers, romantic couples or vacationing families. The app also allows hotels to solicit customer feedback before checking out, to fix issues before guests leave negative reviews online, he said.

“Our pillars are improving guest happiness and enabling hotels to do more with fewer employees,” said Adir Ron, Duve’s director of marketing. “Hotels will not disappear [because of Covid-related staffing shortages]. They will get more digital. But they still need to provide a personal service.”

Research suggests that Duve is up to something. A report by Oracle Hospitality and Skift Research says that 73% of customers are more likely to choose hotels that offer automated self-service options like these. And marketing attractions have been one of the top cross-selling opportunities for hotels, airlines and travel agencies.

The company has been refining its approach in Israel and Europe, Ron said. Money from the venture will pay for expansion in the US, where Duve has 100 hotel customers. One goal is to expand support operations to better serve western US time zones, he said.

Short-term goals include doubling the company’s staff to about 50 people and getting big deals in at least three US states, Ron said.

The target market is mainly boutique hotels, with the company feeling that many chain hotels will get similar technology from their brands, Ron said.

Other recently announced deals include:

>>>borrow a boatwhich calls itself the UK’s premier yacht charter and yacht charter market, said it had raised more than £1m in a crowdfunded equity round that opened on 30 May.

>>>Smeetz, a Swiss startup whose software-based service allows attractions to implement dynamic pricing plans powered by artificial intelligence, said on May 31 that it has raised a $4 million Series A venture capital round, led by Privilege Ventures, with headquarters in Zurich. The money will finance expansion to the US, the company said.

Skift cheat sheet

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

Serie A funding is normally obtained from venture capitalists. The round aims to help a startup founders ensure their product is something customers actually want to buy.

Serie B Financing is primarily about venture capitalists helping a company to grow faster. These fundraising rounds can help recruit skilled workers and develop cost-effective marketing.

C series Financing is often aimed at helping a company expand, such as through acquisitions. In addition to VCs, hedge funds, investment banks and private equity firms often participate.

D series, and and beyond These mostly mature deals and funding round can help a company prepare to go public or be acquired. Various types of private investors can participate.

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