Berlin-based GoEuro, an online travel search platform that lets travelers search and compare air, bus, train, and car travel across Europe, announced today that it has closed a $4 million seed funding round led by Battery Ventures and Hasso Plattner Ventures (HPV), in addition to other private investors. The startup will use the funding to hire, build out partnerships with transportation providers, and get its product ready a private beta launch.
Founder and CEO Naren Shaam traveled in Europe after completing of his MBA from Harvard and found that though the continent had no shortage of on-the-ground infrastructure, accessing the data to compare pricing and travel time was difficult. After moving permanently to Europe, Shaam began talks with travel providers and the team started developing the technology in September 2012, with a release into closed beta planned in the coming months.
“I really struggled to see the extent of travel options online easily, I spent a lot of time searching on different websites. Especially around bus and train travel which is not in the same format as air when you’re a foreigner,” said Shaam in an interview with BetaKit. “The problem is that there are all these options, the infrastructure for travel is very clear, the trains and buses are very good here…but the source of information that aggregates or puts all this in one place where you can not only see the options, but you can also merge to create your itinerary, does not exist, so that’s why we made this.”
The company aims to provide users with a single platform where it combines air, rail, bus, and car rental options to let them choose the lowest price and access faster booking rather than having to browse several different websites. Though Shaam said the company isn’t disclosing which travel partners it has signed on, he did say it will initially start rolling out the functionality in the UK and Germany and expand from there.
When asked if the site was looking to add booking functionality, Shaam said that was a problem it would look to tackle down the road. For the time being, its business model revolves around revenue sharing or earning a commission for each booking it helps deliver for its travel partners.
The founder of competitor BusBud also decided to launch his startup after encountering difficulties while traveling after completing his Harvard MBA, though that company is focused specifically on bus travel. BetaKit covered the company when it revamped its platform and more recently launched its iPhone app. Though GoEuro is probably more similar to North American counterpart Wanderu, which also partners with local providers to license their scheduling data, though Wanderu also allows users to directly book through its platform (though doesn’t provide the ability to compare air travel or car rental options).
The biggest difference between Wanderu and GoEuro according to Shaam is that the North American and European market have very little in common when it comes to bus and train travel. “There’s a huge difference between Europe and North America…the biggest difference is that the rail infrastructure is pretty significant compared to North America,” Shaam added. “People do take Greyhound buses, but its a completely different segment of the market. People who take buses are not comparing to air or people who take air are not looking for bus options.”
The other factor that makes a train, bus, car rental, and air travel comparison site a necessity in Europe is the proximity of countries in the region, and the existence of both vast ground transportation hubs as well as low-cost air carriers that fly in and between major urban centers. With that, the company is confident that with the investment behind them they will now be able to develop the necessary technology to make the routing and mapping possible to help make it easier for people to plan their trips and get around. Whether it proves to be successful in its efforts will center largely around its ability to secure partnerships with transportation providers, and its capacity to market itself as the go-to site for those looking to make their way across the continent.