Triptrotting, a startup that connects travelers with hosts, has raised $1 million in a Series A round of funding.
The company’s website promises that users will be “not just another clueless tourist.” The idea is that when you’re traveling to new places, it’s almost always better if you have a local friend, so Triptrotting tries to connect travelers with locals at their destination. If you’re a host, that can involve letting someone stay with you, or it can be more limited, like taking them on a tour or just meeting them for a meal. Co-founder Shana Zheng (who has in fact played Triptrotting host to TechCrunch office manager Greg Barto) says one of the most important parts of the service is its matching algorithm, which was developed in consultation with former eHarmony chief scientist Galen Buckwalter.
Even though hosting is more about cultural exchange, not moneymaking, hosts can ask to be paid tips for specific services, like picking someone up at the airport.
Obviously, safety can be a concern when you’re meeting up with strangers (or staying with them). The Triptrotting FAQ makes it clear that it’s ultimately up to “your decision and judgment,” but the company says it tries to verify that members are who they say they are. Hosts and travelers are also asked to review each other after a trip. And Zheng says Tripspotting avoided safety issues when it started out by working with universities and professional organizations.
The company isn’t revealing its member numbers, but Zheng tells me that Triptrotting now has a presence in more than 2,000 cities and 150 countries. She attributes much of that growth to Triptrotting’s “ambassadors”, who sometimes promote the site through large events that can draw hundreds or thousands of attendees (a typical event will attract expatriates, international journalists, students, and more, Zheng says).
Investors include Google Ventures, Mark Suster of GRP Partners and Launchpad LA, Dave McClure of 500 Startups, Bill Gross of Idealab, Safa Rashtchy, and Eric Chen. Triptrotting has now raised a total of $1.3 million.