There is nothing as cool as riding a high-speed train across Europe. But buying train tickets is also one of the worst online experiences. French startup Capitaine Train is all about making this process as seamless and complete as possible. The company just raised another $6.3 million (€5.5 million) to expand its activities.
Alven Capital is leading the round, with existing investors Index Ventures and CM-CIC Capital Privé putting in more money. TheFamily and business angels, such as Xavier Niel and Liligo founder Pierre Bonelli, also invested. Former Deutsche Bahn France president Daniel Beutler is also joining the startup as COO.
Instead of rewriting a profile on Capitaine Train as I already did, I’m going to tell you why Capitaine Train stands out as a startup. The company’s website and apps are the best ecommerce experience I have ever seen.
Every step in both the web app and the mobile app is well-designed, clean and fast. It would be very hard to make train ticket booking more efficient than that. I can buy a train ticket in less time than it takes me to pick the right Instagram filter for my last shot.
But that’s not all. The product team is incredibly fast and meticulous at the same time. For example, the company updated the iPhone app for iOS 8 shortly after the official release, with a “Today view” widget that will show your rides for today, Touch ID integration for payment and more. This is the kind of app that you would demo in a design meetup.
When you are disrupting national monopolies like ticket booking, you can’t do a product that is only slightly better than the existing solution — early adopters won’t make your startup live. You need to build a killer product that is radically better. Capitaine Train understood this quite early, and today’s funding round is the result of all that.
In order to scale, I think Capitaine Train needs two things – a lot more customers, and more countries. Selling train tickets is a low margin industry, and the startup should expect to sell tens of millions of tickets per year in the near future if it wants to generate significant revenue.
As of today, the company sells 5,000 tickets per day, which is a huge improvement compared to last year, but still not enough. This growth is no surprise, either. I’ve heard many times that the most impressive internal metrics come from recurring customers. If you buy a ticket on Capitaine Train once, chances are that you will end up using the platform for all your future bookings. It is that good.
Similarly, Capitaine Train works particularly well in a couple of European markets, such as France and Germany. But it needs to work on integrating more train systems across Europe, especially in countries that lack a unifying platform. This will be a key competitive advantage.
Capitaine Train still has a long way to go in these two areas, but it is such a beautiful product. I want the team to succeed, because it deserves to. And I also can’t see myself going back to using outdated websites and apps.