Startups

Headout Raises $1.8 Million For Its Travel App That Puts A Concierge In Your Pocket

Comment

Image Credits:

Headout, a mobile travel application that functions as sort of a mobile concierge, helping you find tours, activities and tickets to local events in select U.S. cities, has closed on $1.8 million in seed funding in order to expand its business to new markets. Currently only live in New York and Los Angeles, the startup says it plans to utilize the funds to reach 12 more cities by year-end.

This includes expansions into San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington D.C., Miami, and others over the next few months.

San Francisco and L.A. will be live next month, the company notes.

Describing itself as an “Uber for tours,” the startup first began as Bangalore-based Tourlandish, and was initially targeting travel to and from Asia. But the company, which later participated in the 500 Startups accelerator program, shut down that app and relaunched with one focused on New York tours and events instead.

After being live in New York for around six months, Headout launched in Las Vegas as its second supported city.

Today, Headout has close to 500 last-minute activities available in its application, which the startup reports is anywhere from five to ten times more than its competitors offer. There are also 300 more vendors on waitlists for inclusion.

Not all vendors are able to participate in Headout, however. Instead, the company tests out the activities in advance in order to vet them. If approved, the vendors are then given access to their own standalone mobile application that allows them to control when their activities are made available to Headout users. That is, they can use the service to quickly fill unsold inventory by listing the number of seats or tickets available and reducing the prices, if they choose.

The idea with the consumer-facing app is to quickly connect travelers with a variety of travel experiences, ranging from theater tickets to helicopter tours to dinner cruises and more with just a few taps. The app breaks these down into various categories within the app for easy access, and even makes its own recommendations in an “Editor’s Choice” section.

In addition, the startup is developing algorithms that will personalize its recommendations even further, taking the larger inventory available and narrowing it down to just those activities that best match up with travelers’ interests. Today, those algorithms only look at basic data like where the app is opened, time of day, and weather, for example, but in an upcoming release it will tap into social data from Facebook and Twitter, as well. This will allow it to understand an individual’s interests, by pulling insights gained from their likes and status updates.

Co-founder and CEO Varun Khona says the idea for the company was sparked by a European road trip he and co-founder Suren Sultania once took. They realized that the existing online marketplaces were lacking in availability and in interesting “long-tail” activities, while their pricing was the same as buying directly as a walk-in. You also had to print out physical vouchers, which seemed fairly dated.

Screenshot-2

“Overall, they had built their mobile apps as an afterthought, and the business wasn’t built around the spontaneous or on-demand use case,” says Khona. “We knew there are a lot of folks like us who do not pre-book their holiday activities and an app meant to do just that in the easiest way possible sounded like an exciting idea to work on,” he adds. They realized as they went to work on what became Headout that the space was lacking a decent aggregator, which is why the company’s long-term goal is to become that brand for any destination in the world.

Since its launch last July, Headout claims to have booked activities for “tens of thousands” of customers who hail from over 65 countries worldwide. Khona says the business has been doubling every month, and is expected to grow ten times this year, thanks to its forthcoming expansions. The company takes 20% of its ticket sales to generate revenue, he notes.

Screen Shot 2015-04-24 at 11.56.47 AM

Headout is backed by Version One Ventures, an early-stage fund focused on investments in consumer internet, software-as-a-service and mobile businesses. Founding partner at Version One Ventures and board partner at Andreessen Horowitz, Boris Wertz, said his firm’s interest in Headout was due to the opportunities they see in mobile-first marketplaces.

Other investors in the seed round include 500 Startups, Nexus Venture Partners, Arena Ventures, AngelList’s Maiden Lane Ventures, FundersClub, Haystack Fund, Ludlow Ventures, DreamIt Ventures as well as angel investors Semil Shah, Rick Marini (advisor to Facebook), Fabrice Grinda (OLX), Kunal Bahl and Rohit Bansal (Snapdeal), Steve Barsh and Neeraj Arora (WhatsApp).

In addition to helping fuel the expansions, the San Francisco-headquartered company is hiring across the board in engineering, sales, operations, and more. The company is also working with others in the travel space which will be using its API in their products and services, but is not yet ready to name partners at this time.

More TechCrunch

When I attended Automate in Chicago a few weeks back, multiple people thanked me for TechCrunch’s semi-regular robotics job report. It’s always edifying to get that feedback in person. While…

These 81 robotics companies are hiring

The top vehicle safety regulator in the U.S. has launched a formal probe into an April crash involving the all-electric VinFast VF8 SUV that claimed the lives of a family…

VinFast crash that killed family of four now under federal investigation

When putting a video portal in a public park in the middle of New York City, some inappropriate behavior will likely occur. The Portal, the vision of Lithuanian artist and…

NYC-Dublin real-time video portal reopens with some fixes to prevent inappropriate behavior

Longtime New York-based seed investor, Contour Venture Partners, is making progress on its latest flagship fund after lowering its target. The firm closed on $42 million, raised from 64 backers,…

Contour Venture Partners, an early investor in Datadog and Movable Ink, lowers the target for its fifth fund

Meta’s Oversight Board has now extended its scope to include the company’s newest platform, Instagram Threads, and has begun hearing cases from Threads.

Meta’s Oversight Board takes its first Threads case

The company says it’s refocusing and prioritizing fewer initiatives that will have the biggest impact on customers and add value to the business.

SeekOut, a recruiting startup last valued at $1.2 billion, lays off 30% of its workforce

The U.K.’s self-proclaimed “world-leading” regulations for self-driving cars are now official, after the Automated Vehicles (AV) Act received royal assent — the final rubber stamp any legislation must go through…

UK’s autonomous vehicle legislation becomes law, paving the way for first driverless cars by 2026

ChatGPT, OpenAI’s text-generating AI chatbot, has taken the world by storm. What started as a tool to hyper-charge productivity through writing essays and code with short text prompts has evolved…

ChatGPT: Everything you need to know about the AI-powered chatbot

SoLo Funds CEO Travis Holoway: “Regulators seem driven by press releases when they should be motivated by true consumer protection and empowering equitable solutions.”

Fintech lender SoLo Funds is being sued again by the government over its lending practices

Hard tech startups generate a lot of buzz, but there’s a growing cohort of companies building digital tools squarely focused on making hard tech development faster, more efficient and —…

Rollup wants to be the hardware engineer’s workhorse

TechCrunch Disrupt 2024 is not just about groundbreaking innovations, insightful panels, and visionary speakers — it’s also about listening to YOU, the audience, and what you feel is top of…

Disrupt Audience Choice vote closes Friday

Google says the new SDK would help Google expand on its core mission of connecting the right audience to the right content at the right time.

Google is launching a new Android feature to drive users back into their installed apps

Jolla has taken the official wraps off the first version of its personal server-based AI assistant in the making. The reborn startup is building a privacy-focused AI device — aka…

Jolla debuts privacy-focused AI hardware

OpenAI is removing one of the voices used by ChatGPT after users found that it sounded similar to Scarlett Johansson, the company announced on Monday. The voice, called Sky, is…

OpenAI to remove ChatGPT’s Scarlett Johansson-like voice

The ChatGPT mobile app’s net revenue first jumped 22% on the day of the GPT-4o launch and continued to grow in the following days.

ChatGPT’s mobile app revenue saw its biggest spike yet following GPT-4o launch

Dating app maker Bumble has acquired Geneva, an online platform built around forming real-world groups and clubs. The company said that the deal is designed to help it expand its…

Bumble buys community building app Geneva to expand further into friendships

CyberArk — one of the army of larger security companies founded out of Israel — is acquiring Venafi, a specialist in machine identity, for $1.54 billion. 

CyberArk snaps up Venafi for $1.54B to ramp up in machine-to-machine security

Founder-market fit is one of the most crucial factors in a startup’s success, and operators (someone involved in the day-to-day operations of a startup) turned founders have an almost unfair advantage…

OpenseedVC, which backs operators in Africa and Europe starting their companies, reaches first close of $10M fund

A Singapore High Court has effectively approved Pine Labs’ request to shift its operations to India.

Pine Labs gets Singapore court approval to shift base to India

The AI Safety Institute, a U.K. body that aims to assess and address risks in AI platforms, has said it will open a second location in San Francisco. 

UK opens office in San Francisco to tackle AI risk

Companies are always looking for an edge, and searching for ways to encourage their employees to innovate. One way to do that is by running an internal hackathon around a…

Why companies are turning to internal hackathons

Featured Article

I’m rooting for Melinda French Gates to fix tech’s broken ‘brilliant jerk’ culture

Women in tech still face a shocking level of mistreatment at work. Melinda French Gates is one of the few working to change that.

1 day ago
I’m rooting for Melinda French Gates to fix tech’s  broken ‘brilliant jerk’ culture

Blue Origin has successfully completed its NS-25 mission, resuming crewed flights for the first time in nearly two years. The mission brought six tourist crew members to the edge of…

Blue Origin successfully launches its first crewed mission since 2022

Creative Artists Agency (CAA), one of the top entertainment and sports talent agencies, is hoping to be at the forefront of AI protection services for celebrities in Hollywood. With many…

Hollywood agency CAA aims to help stars manage their own AI likenesses

Expedia says Rathi Murthy and Sreenivas Rachamadugu, respectively its CTO and senior vice president of core services product & engineering, are no longer employed at the travel booking company. In…

Expedia says two execs dismissed after ‘violation of company policy’

Welcome back to TechCrunch’s Week in Review. This week had two major events from OpenAI and Google. OpenAI’s spring update event saw the reveal of its new model, GPT-4o, which…

OpenAI and Google lay out their competing AI visions

When Jeffrey Wang posted to X asking if anyone wanted to go in on an order of fancy-but-affordable office nap pods, he didn’t expect the post to go viral.

With AI startups booming, nap pods and Silicon Valley hustle culture are back

OpenAI’s Superalignment team, responsible for developing ways to govern and steer “superintelligent” AI systems, was promised 20% of the company’s compute resources, according to a person from that team. But…

OpenAI created a team to control ‘superintelligent’ AI — then let it wither, source says

A new crop of early-stage startups — along with some recent VC investments — illustrates a niche emerging in the autonomous vehicle technology sector. Unlike the companies bringing robotaxis to…

VCs and the military are fueling self-driving startups that don’t need roads

When the founders of Sagetap, Sahil Khanna and Kevin Hughes, started working at early-stage enterprise software startups, they were surprised to find that the companies they worked at were trying…

Deal Dive: Sagetap looks to bring enterprise software sales into the 21st century