Booking holiday trips online isn’t exactly ground-breaking stuff, you would think. And then you come across a company like Amsterdam-based TravelBird, which seemingly identified a gap in the market a little over five years ago and has been on a rocket ship ever since.
TravelBird – rather simply – offers a handful of online holiday deals every day, giving subscribers the option of booking diverse vacations on a whim (some offers only last for 24 hours) at significant discounts. A mix of Groupon and (also Amsterdam-based) Booking.com, in other words.
Started in April 2010, TravelBird has handled over 2.5 million bookings and is currently sending 12,000 travellers on their way daily. Last year, it hit a turnover of €95 million (but no profit, we should note).
Interestingly, only “20 to 30%” of bookings are currently made on mobile devices, although the company expands this to be the other way around in a few years time.
The company has grown to more than 650 employees with more than 30 nationalities in just five years, all of them working out of a beautiful office building by the iconic Keizersgracht in central Amsterdam.
During my recent whirlwind tour of the tech startup scene in Amsterdam, I had the chance to sit down with Symen Jansma, a charismatic entrepreneur and business mentor who co-founded TravelBird and now serves as its CEO. You can watch the interview above.
Jansma and co have raised only a paltry amount of capital relative to its rapid growth, securing about €15,5 million from Global Founders Capital (the investment vehicle from Rocket Internet founders, the Samwer brothers) in late 2014, and before from Keen Venture Partners (co-founded by former Alcatel-Lucent CEO Ben Verwaayen). Their last financing round valued TravelBird at €140 million.
Rumour on the Amsterdam streets is, however, that the company is poised to raise a significant round of growth capital in the near future. During the interview, Jansma confirmed that the company has plans to secure more capital, stopping short of saying who from or how much at this point.
The goal for TravelBird is to expand its footprint by constantly adding new holiday destinations and, over time, open up new offices in other parts of the world that are more difficult to cover from a single Amsterdam office building (also see Berlin-based social gaming giant Wooga’s strategy).
What I found interesting during the tour that I was given of the latter, is that TravelBird is organised in a way that enables people to take ownership of a specific holiday country. For instance, the UK has its own ‘country manager’, partnerships, marketing, copy-writing and other staff, and each ‘cell’ works rather autonomously towards a common set of measurable goals.
It will be interesting to see if that changes as TravelBird expands even more, driven by additional capital or not, as Jansma already indicated during our conversation that the biggest challenge for the company is to maintain some of its startup DNA in the midst of rapid growth across the board.
Either way, it will be interesting to see if ‘daily deals for travel packages’ is a sustainable model in the long run, and if TravelBird can make enough of a dent in the global saturated holiday booking market.
Speaking of which, I asked Jansma whether they receive a lot of acquisition interest given the recent wave of consolidation in the online travel booking space, and he acknowledged that it’s there, that they’ve talked to some parties in the past, but also “there’s no way I’m going to sell!”.
We’ll keep tabs to see if Jansma is still TravelBird’s CEO in 20 years, which he says he hopes to be.
(All images credit to tech.eu)