Venture investing in the travel sector lately has focused on air travel and hospitality, with the acquisition of trivago by Expedia, and Kayak Software by Priceline along with new funding rounds for Room77 and others in December.
Often overlooked is the highly fragmented, but huge market of leisure activities–what to do once you’ve arrived and had a good night’s sleep.
A Berlin-based startup with U.S. headquarters in Las Vegas,GetYourGuide, said Monday that it has raised $14 million to become the go-to resource for finding and booking leisure activities online–everything from a local museum tour to an international bungee jumping adventure.
This market includes travelers going to far-away destinations, and locals who want to get out of their routines, if not their zip codes, which means it is potentially recession-proof, said GetYourGuide founder and Chief Executive Johannes Reck. He cites estimates that the market for leisure activities is upwards of $100 billion annually world-wide.
Highland Capital Partners and Spark Capital led the Series A investment in GetYourGuide. The company raised $2 million in seed funding earlier, led byProFounder. An investor with that angel firm, Bret Hoberman, who founded LastMinute.com, an early tour de force in online travel in Europe, introduced the company to its eventual U.S. institutional investors.
With the funding, a general partner with Spark Capital in Boston, Alex Finkelstein, and a European general partner with Highland Capital Partners, Fergal Mullen, both joined the board of directors at GetYourGuide.
VentureWire has learned that the company also enlisted Fritz Demopolous as an independent board member. The tech investor is best known as the American co-founder of a hugely successful Chinese travel site called Qunar.com.
According to Reck, the company will use the funding to expand its team, including in the U.S.; translate its content into many languages; release mobile apps; and later in 2013 launch an “Open Table-esque” tool to help the sellers of activities manage bookings and more.
Today, GetYourGuide enables users to find and book activities from the family-friendly to the adult and adventurous.
In Las Vegas this week, for example, users can book a Grand Canyon Helicopter tour and Champagne Picnic ($364 per person) a Bootleg Canyon Zipline adventure ($159 per person) or a VIP Nightclub tour ($80 per person) on GetYourGuide.
Reck said partnerships with companies like Tripadvisor and Kayak—and more than a thousand others–extend the reach of his company’s content well beyond the site. In the past year, about 70% of bookings occurred directly through GetYourGuide.com, and 30% from partner sites, he reports.
The Germany-based entrepreneur said it took about six months to lock in the Series A funding. “We had several term sheets, and it ended up being a competitive deal, but believe me as a European entrepreneur, you have to really prove yourself to get American investors to trust and be interested in you,” he noted.
Investor Alex Finkelstein observed that ultimately his firm decided to back the company because of the entrepreneur’s ability to build a revenue-generating site and popular brand in Europe with very little funding, and to recruit incredible talent to the company against stiff competition from local tech companies, startups and even banks where it started in Zurich in 2009.
Finkelstein called the CEO of GetYourGuide a “recruiting animal,” jokingly. Reck said employees at the company today previously worked at Tripadvisor, UBS and Google, among others. The startup has employees of 20 different nationalities and uses their language skills to translate content for the website.
The investor said GetYourGuide should double its number of listed activities, work on increasing the visibility of the brand in the U.S. in 2013, and work on releasing mobile apps.
Reck believes users will increasingly want to book at the last minute, and from mobile devices of every kind. “Incumbents in the industry haven’t understood the importance of real-time listings, and spontaneity,” he said.