Stride raises $2.5M from JetBlue, NFX for its guided trips marketplace

Group travel — it’s something you either love or hate, but Stride, which describes itself as a marketplace for “experiential multi-day and multi-destination packaged trips planned by experts,” wants to change this perception. The service, which was co-founded by former Starwood Hotels and Viator executive Gavin Delany, today announced that it has raised a $2.5 million seed round from JetBlue Ventures and NFX. In addition, it rolled out its new TripFinder feature, which makes it easier to find the right tour from the more than 30,000 travel itineraries from its partners in its database.

The service first launched in 2016. Delany decided to focus on trips because of his own frustration with finding the right operator to hike the Inca Trail in Peru. “At the time, there was no platform that allowed you to search and compare different itineraries and operators,” he told me. And that’s exactly what Stride wants to do: help you find the right operator, no matter whether you are looking for a relaxed multi-day, multi-generational jaunt through Europe or a personalized extreme sports adventure.

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Unsurprisingly, most of Stride’s users are exactly the kind of travelers you’d expect to be interested in a guided tour. They tend to be older, more affluent and obviously interested in seeing the world. “They have the time, they have the money and they have the inclination to see the world. They want their adventure, but they want their comfort, too,” said Delany. Still, the company is also seeing a growing interest from younger clients who want to use the service to book small group or private tours, as well as pre-planned self-guided itineraries.

That’s where TripFinder comes in, which makes it far easier to find the right tour by guiding you through a few questions about who you are, where you want to travel and what style of travel you are interested in, including how much free time you expect to have during your guided experience.

Because Delany worked in the travel industry, he had the connection to find investors for Stride’s first institutional round. “We had been in conversations with JetBlue Ventures for about a year before they ended up investing. We just had that relationship and sharing what our vision was,” Delany said. He noted that JetBlue was especially interested because of the user engagement that Stride was seeing. Indeed, Stride says it drove more than $330 million in tour bookings last year and expects to surpass $1 billion in 2019.

Stride doesn’t expect that any of the larger travel sites like TripAdvisor or Expedia will really cut into its market anytime soon. Guided tours are a relatively small market for these companies, compared to the trillion-dollar flight and hotel booking market. In addition, these multi-day and multi-destination tours are simply far more complex than commodity flight and hotel bookings.

The company plans to use the new funding to build out its platform and expand the range of tours in its lineup to cover even more places. “The core thing we’re most excited about is making this type of extraordinary world travel extremely easy,” Delany said.