Contxto – Travl Join is an AI-powered lead generation platform for travel companies. Think of it as the inverse of Despegar or any other B2C travel aggregator. It is a tourist aggregator for travel companies!
With such a big local market, you would think this Rio de Janeiro-based startup would be happy to stick to Brazil. But, counterintuitively in the midst of a global pandemic that has closed the world’s borders, Travl has spent the past months scaling globally.
Even though it may seem so at first, I don’t believe this expansion has much to do with the cash incentives Travl has scored over the past few months.
You see, as revealed for the first time to Contxto, in April of 2020, Travl secured an investment worth US$20,000 plus US$1,500 monthly for half a year. That adds up to a total investment of US$29,000.
Thus, Travl Join’s total investment now stands at US$100,000, all of which has gone into building its AI platform, marketing, and team.
This is all actually quite small-fry in simple numbers, but the crucial detail is when, why, and how Travl secured this money.
When to invest in traveltech
Tatiana Rihan (pictured), CEO of Travl Join, spoke to Contxto and told us about the company’s journey and of the interesting timing of this investment.
It corresponds to Contxto’s ongoing Covid-era hypothesis that, even as investments may recover from the initial spook, as shown here…
…, the total amount of money invested will remain small:
This is indicative of VCs and other investors hedging their bets as the disruptor-in-chief, Covid-19, completely changes the way the world economy works.
In this sense, Travl’s smallish investment falls within this trend. However, their intercontinental expansion does not.
As everyone hunkered down for the storm, Travl Join was accepted into the Singapore Tourism accelerator and secured the Singapore Tourism Board as investors. Yet, even this was just another stepping stone into what, if successful, maybe a masterclass in international scaling and sectorial synergy.
Why to invest in traveltech
The company’s key success while building its Singaporean network was scoring a pilot with one of the country’s largest tourism agencies, Dynasty Travel.
The pilot will aim to increase qualified lead creation by 40 percent, the startup’s CEO told us. The edge that Travl will be providing Dynasty with can be found in its use of Artificial Intelligence.
As a web-based DaaS (Data as a Service) platform, Travl will look to deliver real-time data and leads of unfindable travelers from across the web, based on their destination, desires, and interests.
To Dynasty Travel, “unfindable” means the newest generation of independent travelers: Generation Z. The Singaporean agency needs to attract this audience to survive, but it was not succeeding and hopes to do so with Travl.
How to invest in traveltech during a pandemic
Travl Join gets data from Gen Z—many of them now in their 20’s—because most of its information is sources from social networks.
This was the startup’s main insight when it was founded just one year ago. Its first MVP was designed in Start-Up Chile, giving it yet another quirk which would quickly become an edge:
Travl has also done what Brazil-based startups seem to do best: Quick international scaling. Yet, as opposed to jumping across the oceans immediately as many Brazilian companies do without giving the rest of Latam a second thought, the company utilized Chile’s world-class accelerator ecosystem to power its growth.
This dual nationality has allowed it to build its base of over 30 clients in both Chile and Brazil, and now Singapore.
And, in a further twist, the company has also based the entirety of its lead generation capacity—over 250,000 so far—through only two social networks, Twitter and Instagram, as well through a linkup with Google Trends.
This limited scope isn’t too surprising for a company mining (public) data for GenZ. Perhaps more shocking is the fact that Twitter is still on their spread: It seems only old codgers like me are sticking around there nowadays.
Three assumptions and a funeral (maybe)
Yet, there is a big hole in Travl’s mining operation. TikTok, despite recent threats of closure from the US, is the world’s fastest-growing social media site. And it’s all thanks to Gen Z.
The problem is that, even though Travl‘s devs have their eyes locked on the social media site, TikTok itself does not have an API that allows for lead generation. Does Travl risk losing track of a generation’s pulse as Twitter and Instagram become old-hat? It could well spell the death of this traveltech startup as time goes on.
But then again, who am I to make predictions? If anything, Travl Join has overturned two out of three of my main presuppositions before writing this article. They:
- Are following a pattern of smaller investments
- Aren’t just weathering the storm or reinventing themselves as a vulnerable tourism startup
- Aren’t sticking to my old assumptions about how Brazilian scaleups behave.
The world really is changing… I’d better get on TikTok and keep track of what those kids are up to.