Travel Tech Essentialist #19: Options

Money can’t buy happiness or guarantee success, but it sure can open up options. This week’s newsletter brings stories that total more than $1.5 billion from VC, corporates and accelerators going to travel startups.

CORRECTION: In my last newsletter I linked to the 11 travel startups to watch out for in this decade as per Plug and Play’s Travel & Hospitality team. Apologies that the URL was incorrect. This is the correct one.

1. Omio expands to North America

Berlin-based Omio (previously known as GoEuro) is a global multi-mode search engine for all major forms of transportation. It has raised $296 million in funding since its launch in 2013. In October 2019, it used some of those funds to acquire Rome2Rio, another multimodal travel search platform. Omio just announced a major step forward in its global expansion with its entrance to the United States and Canada, covering 23,000 routes and 20 partners including Amtrak, VIA Rail Canada, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, OurBus and Academy. Read more - Reuters.

2. Google’s new travel tools to improve travel planning

No question that Google builds products and search experiences that resonate with consumers. Google’s recent travel search tweaks can help consumers identify the best timing for trips, determine where to stay, and figure out how much it’s really going to cost. Read more - Washington Post.

3. Google Flights ends booking charges for airlines

Just when we thought that free organic results were dying, Google will implement some changes with potentially significant implications for OTAs and airlines. Some of the changes: placing organic results above Google’s flight module; no longer charging airlines for booking links to their websites from within its price-comparison feature; eliminating the OTA ads that appeared without prices at the bottom of Google Flights. We’ll see if any of this has any material impact on airlines, OTAs or on Google’s monetization machine. My guess is it won’t. Read more - Skift.

4. JetBlue Technology Ventures 2019 results

Boni Simi, President of JetBlue Technology Ventures, writes about the group’s achievements and its portfolio milestones in the past year. In 2019, JTV reviewed 2,000 new startups, met in person with 300 new entrepreneurs, invested in 4 new startups and made 7 follow-on investments with existing portfolio companies. This brings JTV to a total of 25 initial investments and 18 follow-on investments since its founding four years ago. Read more - Medium.

5. Joby Aviation becomes the best funded eVTOL (electric Vertical Take-Off and Landing) startup

Joby Aviation (a JTV portfolio company) raised $590 million in Series C funding, bringing the total raised to $720 million. Toyota led the round with a $394 million investment. JetBlue Technology Ventures also participated in the round of the Santa Cruz California-based startup which now has around 400 employees. Joby’s most pressing challenge is not a technology one. It’s obtaining certification from the Federal Aviation Authority and other regulatory agencies around the world. Read more - Bloomberg.

6. Airbus completes first pilotless take-off

The first fully automatic vision-based take-off took place in the Toulouse airport, using image recognition technology installed on the aircraft rather than using existing ground technology. This was the latest step in Airbus’ Autonomous Taxi, Take-off and Landing (ATTOL) project. Airbus said it would trial pilotless taxi and landing sequences by the mid 2020. Last summer, Airbus announced it had teamed up with France’s RATP (state-owned public transport operator) to explore the viability of eVTOL vehicles in time for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris. Read more - Independent.

7. New head of Airbus BizLab wants to spend 1/3 on moonshots

The Airbus BizLab accelerator program started in 2015 and has so far incubated 72 external startups and 54 internal projects, which have raised a collective €23.5m. Christian Lindener leads the program since November and is frank about its challenges: “BizLab has been around for 4 years but it isn’t really visible”. His plan is twofold: he wants Airbus to take bigger bets; he also wants more ambition and risk, with around one third of the BizLab budget going into “moonshot” long-term big bets. Read more - Sifted.

8. And this week’s creativity award goes to….Expedia!

Expedia released a tactical campaign for trips to Canada following Harry and Meghan’s announcement to spend more time there. Saatchi & Saatchi is Expedia’s global advertising agency since 2018. Read more - Campaign.

Expedia ad appeared in newspapers alongside editorial articles  - @adliterate

Expedia ad appeared in newspapers alongside editorial articles - @adliterate

9. Latin America’s biggest travel company

Brazil’s CVC Corp made a number of acquisitions in the past few years, but its most transformative was the $77 million acquisition of Buenos Aires-based Almundo in November 2019. This acquisition provides CVC with a true omnichannel sales platform and it helps achieve greater scale beyond its home borders. Almundo operates in Argentina (where it competes with the unicorn Despegar, each with 17% of the market), Colombia, Mexico, and Brazil. Read more - Skift.

10. Funding 💰

  • Australian hotel distribution and channel management company SiteMinder closed a round “in excess of $69 million” led by BlackRock. In 2019, SiteMinder processed 105 million bookings via the platform for more than 35,000 hotels and exceeding recurring annual revenue of $69 million. Read more - PhocusWire.

  • New York-based Life House, a technology-driven lifestyle hotel company founded in 2017, completed a $30 million Series B round led by Thayer Ventures, bringing total raised to $140 million. Read more - PhocusWire.

  • The Guild, an Austin-based hospitality startup aiming to bridge the gap between Airbnb and hotels, has closed on a $25 million Series B. The financing brings The Guild’s total venture funding to $31.5 million. Read more - Crunchbase.

  • With more than $450 million in funding during the past 2 years, TripActions has landed its first-ever "strategic investor”: Lufthansa. The undisclosed investment was made through Lufthansa’s Innovation Hub, the travel startup incubator launched in 2014. Read more - BTN.

  • BYHOURS closed an €8M Series B round, bringing total raised to date to €18 million. The company, with headquarters in Barcelona and a new office in Mexico, offers hotel stays by the hour in over 3,000 hotels in 600 international destinations. Mexican investors Dila Capital and Angel Ventures led the Series B equity round. Read more - Sifted.

  • French startup Matera raised $11.2 million in a round led by Index Ventures. Matera has been building a SaaS platform to give residential building co-owners the property management tools they need. Matera has managed to attract 1,000 residential buildings representing 25,000 users. Read more - TechCrunch.

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