It’s been nearly a year since PhocusWire named its Hot 25 Travel Startups for 2023, and since that time the industry has witnessed a surge in both leisure and business travel. Funding for travel startups, however, is down dramatically this year, at just $4.3 billion according to Phocuswright’s Travel Startups Interactive Database compared to $8.4 billion last year at this time.
As we gear up to announce our class of 2024 startups at The Phocuswright Conference on November 14, we have been checking in with all of the past classes of Hot 25 Travel Startups from 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022 and now 2023.
A handful of the Hot 25 Travel Startups for 2023 have received funding – at total of nearly $32 million since January according to Phocuswright – while many on the list have lined up new clients and won other travel industry awards in the last year.
We asked the founders to tell us two things – their companies’ highlights of 2023 and their priorities for 2024. We heard back from 20 of the 25. Their responses, in some cases, have been condensed and edited for clarity.
Aeronology powers a point-of-sale travel booking platform. Answers from founder and CEO Russell Carstensen.
2023 highlights: For Aeronology, 2023 has been “all in” for NDC [new distribution capability]. After seeing new tech companies, without any travel industry DNA rushing into the NDC marketplace, we suddenly realized that what that rush missed out on was useability for full self-service NDC on a working platform that houses all NDC, all GDS [global distribution system] and all LCC [low-cost carrier] services on one screen. This is where Aeronology stands out. We provide a platform to manage this mass air channel transformation, one that will be expected get to the 80% of NDC in market by 2026.
2024 priorities: More NDC, LCCs, hotels, rail and other travel products on our platform is important for 2024. Aeronology will have in full self-service NDC production by the end of 2023 American Airlines, British Airways, Iberia, Aer Lingus, Qantas, Singapore Airlines, Emirates, Lufthansa, Swiss, Austrian, Scoot and Jetstar. In 2024, we will have completed full self-service for United Airlines, Air Canada, LATAM, COPA, Air France, KLM, Qatar, Etihad, Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines. Aeronology also has just created a full team of LCC developers to grow our LCC offering to Africa, Asia, Europe, South and North America.
Aidaptive is a personalized prediction engine for online businesses. Answers from head of revenue and chief operating officer Brian Bird.
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2023 highlights: Aidaptive’s artificial intelligence-powered predictive hospitality suite is now driving much of the most critical decision-making for enterprise-level vacation rental managers, including personalized digital booking journeys, personalized email marketing, uniquely tailored customer reviews, sales agent coaching, optimized operations and real-time pricing. Aidaptive is also excited to have introduced a growth suite at the VRMA International Conference in October and is now a certified partner of the vacation rental industry’s leading website providers and property management systems.
2024 priorities: 2024 is the year of scale, with an even broader suite of features and entry points that make AI-powered optimization accessible to any vacation rental manager with more than a dozen properties, on up to the largest enterprises managing thousands of units.
AltoVita is a corporate accommodation platform. Answers from CEO and co-founder Vivi Cahyadi Himmel.
2023 highlights: We doubled down on product development in 2023. The highlight was expanding from 1 million units to 7 million units, following several integrations with leading travel technology providers. The new “curated accommodation platform” includes both hotels and extended-stay lodging, including serviced apartments, apart-hotels and vacation homes, with 90% of the units instantly bookable. We also launched a reporting dashboard called AltoInsights.
2024 priorities: Business travel will be a focus for us in 2024, as more organizations recognize the need to offer employees greater choice, and how remote work is shifting durations. We’ll continue to work with relocation management companies, travel agencies and corporations directly to support their programs, with cost containment one of the main benefits when consolidating hotel and extended stay accommodation procurement.
We’ll also be further ramping up our presence in the Asia Pacific region, after a successful 2023 helping clients source a range of accommodation types in challenging locations. Expect more releases too as we launch second-generation pricing data analytics, complementing our AltoInsights suite.
Buoy provides pricing reports on vacation rentals. Answers from co-founder and CEO Tim Speicher.
2023 highlights: As of October 2023, Buoy is available for anyone with an Airbnb account. Before, users had to be on either Guesty or Hospitable to use our product. This change opens us up to the many thousands of entrepreneurs who have fewer than 10 listings under management.
2024 priorities: Our biggest priority for 2024 will be expanding our reach in that segment. No new funding updates, but we have had a number of conversations with potential acquirers.
Chooose is a platform that works to integrate climate action. Answers from CEO Andreas Slettvoll.
2023 highlights: We raised around $20 million from GenZero, SoundWaves, Shell Ventures, and we strengthened our position as the global number one player for digital climate programs to airlines. We also rolled out climate software with multiple industry leaders like Air Canada, Air New Zealand, Malaysia Air, TAP Air, HK Express, Copa, Pegasus, Air transat, Corendon, Azul and more.
2024 priorities: We plan to continue our strong growth trajectory and build out a deeper enterprise grade product suite to cater for our partners’ growing needs.
Fairlyne is a resale-as-a-service platform for travel companies. Answers from founders Gilles de Richemond, Morgan Guerin and Michael d’Eboli.
2023 highlights: In 2023, we celebrated the highly successful launch of Ouigoswap, powered by Fairlyne, which not only delivered impressive financial results for OUIGO but also allowed dozens of thousands of passengers to resale their non-refundable tickets. We secured $4 million in seed funding. We are involved in the implementation of Fairlyne at Royal Air Maroc, following our prestigious win as the top startup out of 300 participants in their Open Innovation Challenge. More recently, our recognition with the Best Startup Award at the ÖBB Afternoon Challenge during the World Passenger Festival has further strengthened our commitment to the rail industry.
2024 priorities: In 2024, our main goal is to firmly establish ourselves as the leading resale-as-a-service platform for travel brands, strengthening our ability to offer travelers and brands an increasingly seamless experience. We plan to continue expanding our network by partnering with more airlines and railway companies while also making a significant impact in the hospitality market. The recent appointment of Yann Cohen-Addad as our chief commercial officer is a crucial step towards bolstering our sales team and supporting our global growth.
Fetcherr is an algorithm-based company that has engineered an artificial intelligence-based market engine. Answers from co-founder and chief strategy officer Robby Nissan.
2023 highlights: In 2023, our generative pricing engine (GPE) achieved high-teens percentage revenue uplift for our clients – due to the arbitrage of technology where the first players lead the market. Fetcherr was chosen as the “Best travel tech startup in the world for 2023” in the world travel tech awards in Dubai. We also introduced the first generative large market engine (LMM) for better decision-making and the first generative inventory engine (GIE) with Virgin Atlantic. Royal Air Maroc has joined Azul and Virgin Atlantic among our partners at Fetcherr, and we finished Round A and we’re starting Round B.
2024 priorities: In 2024, Fletcherr aims to introduce the first generative network engine (GNE) to also optimize network management and to onboard a limited number of airlines – only one at each market. Additionally, after successfully implementing our agnostic technology in the aviation industry, we will open a new vertical during 2024.
Fora Travel is a platform for travel advisors. Answers from co-founder Henley Vazquez.
2023 highlights: Our strategy is working: Fora advisors – most of whom had never booked travel before joining Fora – have booked more than $100 million in travel in two years. Our engineers developed an all-in-one, integrated booking platform. We also redesigned our training program and added Book Better, an advisor training series focused on inclusivity, sustainability and accessibility. And through our user-generated content platform and our lead assignment program, we’re on pace to provide over $4.4 million in bookings for our advisors this year through our Client Lead Program.
2024 priorities: We recently launched Fora X, a new boutique, luxury agency within the company for our top-booking advisors, and the inaugural class will kick off in January. Fora X advisors will also lead the company’s new agency-wide mentorship program, which will put advisors at every level in charge of helping those who are coming up right behind them. It’s true teamwork at its best, led by our brightest. We’ll be rolling out more functionality on our booking platform in 2024 as well. And, of course, there will be more training and development for our advisors, including a revamped and updated advanced training program in January.
GauVendi is a hotel sales and distribution platform that utilizes AI. Answers from co-founder and managing director Markus Mueller.
2023 highlights: We’ve forged new partnerships with renowned companies including Oracle, SiteMinder, and Google, among others. Our product portfolio has expanded with offerings like the sales optimizer, inventi-flow, dynamic room optimization using AI and flexi-channel, facilitating individualized inventory distribution by connecting to channel managers. Highlighting our impact, the Cornell Inn case study showcases labor savings of $100,000 and a 20% revenue boost; we’ve also expanded into the Taiwan and Middle East markets and have achieved significant financial milestones, doubling account values and attaining additional funding.
2024 priorities: In 2024, our primary focus will be to fortify our expertise in feature-based and dynamic inventory management, recognizing its competitive advantage. We’re committed to expanding our client base, especially in Europe and the United States, and further integrating with more property management system interfaces and property management system hubs. Moreover, our collaboration with chatbots aims to blend generative AI with our dynamic inventory approach for hyper-personalized offerings. Simultaneously, our call-pro plus product will evolve, introducing intelligent proposals and a robust customer database module capturing distinct buying behaviors and preferences.
Grapevine partners with travel management companies to enhance revenues. Answers from founder and CEO Jack Dow.
2023 highlights: After a strong close to 2022 on the sales front, our core focus in 2023 has been onboarding new customers and making both the platform and our processes scalable. We completed a bridge funding round that allowed us to make some new hires across data and growth, and we hit over $1.5 million in incremental hotel bookings for our clients, so it is a great launchpad for next year.
2024 priorities: We’re super excited about the opportunities in 2024. For our core product, we will be moving beyond hotels, to rolling out additional core products like ground transportation and airport parking. If you consider that 80%-plus of business travelers either drive or get driven to the airport, the delta between that and the less than 1% of bookings typically getting captured by TMCs is huge. We’re also in late-stage discussions with several corporates directly for our premium product.
Holibob helps tour and attraction operators market and distribute their products. Answers from CEO Craig Everett.
2023 highlights: 2023 saw us drive significant growth in both revenue and gross bookings – reaching nearly five times revenue growth over 2022 and nearly 200% increase in gross bookings through our platform. Those numbers are the result of progress against three strategic initiatives, including growing partnerships in emerging markets, expanding and improving success based marketing offering and building out an innovative experiences marketing platform.
2024 priorities: Building on the progress we made in the past year, 2024 looks extremely promising as we bring together all of the work we’ve done in 2023 to impact each of our strategic priorities. We’re already working to deliver deeper personalization through our experiences marketing platform partners, which will bring significant gains in conversion and customer lifetime value. We’re poised to help even more countries across the Middle East digitize and grow their experiences economy.
Hotelverse provides immersive hotel booking experiences. Answers from chief marketing officer María Bilbao.
2023 highlights: Hotelverse celebrates 18 months of growth and service excellence. We’ve seen notable market interest, secured awards, and initiated U.S. market exploration. The challenges we experienced include managing cash flow, focusing on key accounts and expanding integrations.
2024 priorities: In 2024, we will focus on commercial conversion, product evolution and financial management. We’ll focus on short-term conversions to reach €150,000 contracted monthly recurring revenue by Q1 2024, emphasizing Spanish and Caribbean markets. In the long term, reinforce our commercial presence in the U.S. We’ll enhance the product, reduce dependence on booking engines and improve user experience. We’ll reduce burn rate, extend runway and seek bridge round expansion with convertible notes from family offices or business angels.
Jyrney is a mobility-focused platform. Answers from CEO Daniel Price.
2023 highlights: 2023 was a big year for Jyrney. In February we announced a partnership with leading travel technology provider TripStax, and we launched our mobile solution at the Travel Tech Show in London in June, enabling travel companies to easily plug Jyrney into their mobile apps. We have continued the development of our supplier network and added several ride hail partners to the platform.
2024 highlights: We will continue to focus on better integrating mobility into travel tech. Our engineering team is working on several partnerships that we can’t wait to announce early next year. Mobility and travel are converging quickly, and we will ensure no booking tool, agency, business or traveler gets left behind.
Mount works to connect travelers with eco-friendly experiences offered by travel providers. Answers from CEO and founder Madison Rifkin.
2023 highlights: In 2023, our company achieved remarkable milestones that exemplify our commitment to innovation and growth. To begin with, our founder and CEO received the Shortyz Rising Star Award, a testament to their exceptional leadership in the short-term rental industry.
Midway through the year, our dedicated team launched our beta product, setting the stage for a transformative journey. Embracing change and progress, we embarked on a rebranding initiative that culminated in a spectacular product rollout. In October, we unveiled our reimagined platform, complete with a fresh new website. These pivotal changes mark a new chapter in our company’s journey, reinforcing our commitment to changing the way we travel.
2024 priorities: Our focus is on an ambitious goal – launching the public version of our traveler marketplace. This initiative will empower travelers to explore the world with just a backpack, utilizing our Mount platform to find and rent everything they need from local hosts.
Nectar works to provide liquidity to real estate investors. Answers from co-founder and CEO Derrick Barker.
2023 highlights: 2023 has been a year of significant growth and maturation for Nectar. We created a secondary liquid market for our loans that allows us to be more capital efficient and earn a higher profit margin. We’ve also earned the business of many of the top real estate operators across the country, and we’ve rolled out a new affiliate program in March that now accounts for more than 75% of our business.
2024 priorities: 2024 will be a year marked with exponential growth as we set our company up for capital deployments at a volume we’ve laid the foundation for, using our multiple funding vehicles, including our own fund we’ve very recently launched specifically for accredited investors to contribute to.
NeoKe is working to create a “travel ecosystem” based on the power of digital identification technology. Answers from co-founder and CEO Vikas Bhola.
2023 highlights: In 2023, NeoKe has achieved significant milestones in product development, embarking on multiple industry-level pilots and proof-of-concept initiatives. Another remarkable accomplishment in 2023 was our successful funding round, where we raised $1.4 million to further fuel our mission. In terms of partnerships, NeoKe has solidified significant collaborations. Notably, we’ve joined forces with ICAO, IATA and the European Blockchain Services Infrastructure (EBSI), leading the charge in implementing the highest standards for identity verification and digital identity and biometrics processes in the industry.
2024 priorities: In 2024, we will continue to strengthen our platform proposition to enable the connected trip through unified customer identity with a special focus on streamlining customer onboarding, enhanced data security, and scalable verification processes. Our sacrosanct integrated data sharing processes are designed to keep the customers always in control of their information, reducing liability for travel services at the same time enhancing decision making through personalization and building a direct relationship with travelers.
NeoKe aspires to extend its partnerships with airlines, hotels, airports and online travel agencies in 2024, with an ambition to serve 1M travelers with NeoKe services in 2024 and make it easier for them to experience their trip.
Selfbook works to provide a simpler payment experience. Answers from founder and CEO Khalid Meniri.
2023 highlights: Selfbook released a series of new products and features designed to amplify our mission of simplifying bookings and payments orchestration for hotels including, Station, Payment Links, Express and Flexible Cancellation.
We also renewed several significant partnerships in addition to launching new ones including with Stripe and Affirm as integration partnerships and new partnerships with Oracle, Laasie, The Guestbook, HotelREZ Hotels & Resorts and Way while renewing partnerships with Forbes Travel Guide and Preferred Hotels & Resorts. We also received a strategic investment from Amex Ventures.
2024 priorities: As part of our core philosophy of streamlining the entire booking journey, we intend on offering a data-enabled dynamic booking flow, allowing further customization controls for hotels to create a tailored online experience that is aligned with their brand.
Furthermore, we will also bring the payment privacy and automation we are known for among online bookings to those made offline.
Loyalty Status Co (formerly StatusMatch)
Loyalty Status Co (formerly StatusMatch) is focused on the future of travel loyalty and the technology involved. Answers from CEO Mark Ross-Smith.
2023 highlights: In 2023, StatusMatch rebranded as Loyalty Status Co to better reflect the breadth of products beyond Status Matching.
Loyalty Status Co signed on and launched a record number of major travel brands, including LATAM Airlines, Spirit Airlines, Frontier Airlines and CitizenM Hotels. Most recently, Loyalty Status Co launched the world’s first airline loyalty status subscription product with Royal Air Maroc. This breakthrough innovation will deliver new ancillary revenue streams to the airline in ways not before possible through traditional loyalty mechanics.
2024 priorities: The traveler. Creating new innovative products for travelers is our focus for 2024 as we see a significant uptick in demand from high-value travelers wanting to spend more to accelerate perks, receive more status benefits and improve their travel experience with airlines and hotels. We see virtually unlimited demand from the top end of the market, the gold/platinum type travelers willing to spend more to receive more, and Loyalty Status Co is leading this new wave of “loyalty ancillary” that is turbo-charging ancillary growth for major airline brands globally.
TravelX is the company behind the blockchain-based distribution protocol designed to create a more secure, decentralized, frictionless, transparent and efficient travel industry. Answers from CEO and co-founder Juan Pablo Lafosse.
2023 highlights: We have integrated our first airlines; over 5 million passengers will flow through NFTickets during 2023. We launched the first P2P market in the airline industry. Hosted on the airline website, passengers can resell their tickets to other passengers. We developed a buyback solution that helps airlines increase profits and load factors while improving customer experience. We have raised $6 million through a seed round extension (total $17 million) and added relevant investors to our cap table, including Montie Brewer and Manu Ginobili.
2024 priorities: We expect to achieve 150 million-plus passengers flying with NFTickets. We will continue developing new solutions based on our technology and incorporate AI into it. We are looking to accelerate our global footprint.
Zytlyn provides technology to empower travel retailers with forward-looking AI. Answers from co-founder and CEO Houman Goudarzi.
2023 highlights: We started new partnerships with airlines and airports and expanded our product orientation to also serve the needs of destination and tourism organizations. While releasing customer case studies illustrating 30% uplift in tourism revenue, we also released model updates on our AI platform, further increasing the accuracy and reliability of the predictive insights generated by our AI model and secured additional funding. This year, we expanded our team too.
2024 priorities: In 2024, we aim to release more case studies and evidence, demonstrating the huge opportunity for the destination and tourism players, with a new playbook for intentional attraction of specific tourism audiences, uplifting marketing conversion rates, visitors and tourism revenues. We also plan to expand our AI generated insights, with new products like price prediction services for OTAs and further increasing the granularity and temporal resolution of our AI generated predictive insights. Finally, we’ll release our customer API to be able to support a wide range of software integrations and subsequently high throughput usage of our product in consumer facing use cases of our customers.
The Hot 25 Travel Startups for 2024