Munich-based multimodal journey planner startup, fromAtoB — which operates under the rather less catchy name of VerkehrsmittelVergleich.de in its home market of Germany — has closed a seven-figure Series A expansion round.
The startup, which was founded back in 2008 but only launched its internationalized fromAtoB brand name in July this year, has snagged investment from French VC firm Seventure Partners and Daniel Wild, CEO of Ecommerce Alliance and Tiburon.
Prior to this expansion round, the company raised a six-figure seed back in 2009 from four business angels, including Dr. Florian Heinemann, ex MD of Rocket Internet, now MD of Project-A; along with the aforementioned Wild. It also gained a subsidy from the German state to get the business off the ground.
FromAtoB, whose website lets travellers figure out the quickest and cheapest way to get where they want to go, is already breaking even — via affiliate commissions with transport provider partners, plus cross-selling and display advertising. But Managing Director, Dr Johannes Graßmann, told TechCrunch it plans to use this cashflow plus the new funding to expand its integration with international carriers, especially in the rail and long distance bus sector.
“We plan to internationalize further countries and develop a mobile app,” he added.
If you’re wondering why you haven’t heard of fromAtoB, that may be because they haven’t done any marketing yet — rather, they’ve been relying on SEO and partnerships with destination and reach portals, plus return visitors, to grow their user-base.
They’re also pretty skewed, in terms of usage, towards their home market — with circa 70% of their 2.6 million monthly visitors coming from Germany (making VerkehrsmittelVergleich.de their largest domain).
But that’s also set to change. “We will, for the first time, spend money on marketing measures to further promote the service under the brand fromAtoB,” said Graßmann.
FromAtoB’s search engine is available in 15 countries, translated into 11 languages and generates total ticket sales for all its transport info providers of more than €16M annually. It broadened its focus out from the German market six months ago to Europe in general, and is also now eyeing up the US as what it see as one of its “core markets” in future.
Currently fromAtoB’s largest foreign markets are France, Italy, Austria and Switzerland, according to Graßmann. “With the money from the investment we have planned to penetrate 10 core markets. That are basically the most relevant markets in Europe plus U.S.,” he added.
FromAtoB’s multimodal search engine compares more than 700 providers of train, airplane, bus, rental cars, cars, rideshare and taxi — it claims to cover “all” modes of transport — and combines the different modes to show different journey options, allowing users to filter by factors such as duration, changeovers and price.
Although it covers a whole gamut of modes of transport, its coverage of those modes remains partial. “We have a worldwide coverage with flights and basically EU with rail and ride share,” said Graßmann. “Concerning long distance buses as of today we are covering a couple of EU countries, among them Germany and France.”
It says its search engine pulls in data from “all relevant European transportation providers (e.g. Deutsche Bahn, SNCF, Airberlin etc)”. But there’s some proper integration with third party data going on here, and some crawling of others’ websites to plug integration gaps.
“We do have a partnership with [SNCF and Deutsche Bahn]. This includes data and commission. In the case of Deutsche Bahn we have been pilot partner for their webservice and thus were one of the first being able to officially integrate Deutsche Bahn’s data. In the case of SNCF we also have an agreement but currently need to scrape due to the missing API for metas and will switch to the API next year,” said Graßmann.
In terms of booking, it’s not currently integrated into fromAtoB’s own site but that’s something it plans to add. “At the moment we have a classical meta search approach, i.e. search on our page, book on the partner’s page. So we do not have booking available on our site yet, but will do so in the future and have our contracts already set up like this,” he added.
In terms of holes in its coverage, it does not currently have any rail and bus partners in the U.S., and Graßmann also concedes that “detailed information for public transportation is missing in many cases”.
Building out its coverage is something it plans to do with the new funding — including aiming for “second tier carriers to improve our coverage”, he added.
Competitors in the transport options search space include the likes of GoEuro, Waymate, Rome2Rio and Wanderio. On the European trains side, there’s also U.K.-based Loco2 — although it’s not multimodal but does allow users to chain together train journeys to travel across Europe.