Elude raises $2.1M to show spontaneous travelers the best destinations for their budgets

As more people dust off their luggage and passports after stowing them away during the global pandemic, Elude aims to show travelers a new way to take spontaneous trips.

The Los Angeles-based startup launched its travel discovery mobile app Thursday, a budget-first search engine that shows people how far their money will take them. The platform’s personalized onboarding experience customizes trip packages and offers future travel suggestions based on those preferences.

The idea for the company came three years ago from Alex Simon, CEO, and Frankie Scerbo, CMO, who met in college and bonded over their love of traveling and would do so together any time they had a long weekend. One New Year’s they tried planning a trip, but everything was too expensive. Not being able to find something on their budget, they came up with the idea for Elude.

Rather than searching by destination, Elude gathers information like budget, time frame and trip preferences (think beach versus mountains), then presents users with flight and hotel results for destinations they may never have thought existed or could be traveled to on their budgets.

The company taps into the same flight and hotel databases that all online travel companies use that store hundreds of thousands of flights and hotels and only suggests hotels with 3.5 stars and above.

Elude app

The co-founders have now raised $2.1 million in seed funding led by a group of investors including Mucker Capital, Unicorn Ventures, Upfront Scout Fund, StartupO, Grayson Capital and Flight VC.

When Erik Rannala, co-founder and managing partner at Mucker Capital, initially invested in Elude, it was before the global pandemic. However, he sees travel getting back to normal, though with flights now more expensive than before, more people are looking for travel deals, something that wasn’t being addressed until Elude came along.

Travel is “a massive category,” with most people in either “look mode” or “book mode,” with the money only being made in book mode, Rannala said. By taking a budget-first approach, Elude is bridging people from look mode to book mode more quickly.

“The way they have done it is to help people discover something new based on their budget that is available to book right now,” he added. “It’s a unique way to solve the problem and to give people a good deal.”

With millenials spending over $200 billion annually on travel, Elude’s goal is to reduce the hours of scrolling in search of a trip and more time actively booking vacations. Whereas competitors may show flights only or hotels only, Elude produces flight and hotel packages.

“In just a few clicks, we can show you, for example, that you could go to Barcelona for the same price as Miami,” Scerbo told TechCrunch. “If you knew that kind of information, you would take a better trip. This opens doors to taking a trip every few months instead of the one or two trips a year most people take.”

Prior to today, Elude was in private beta mode where the company had amassed some 40,000 people on the waitlist. Simon said.

Elude plans to use the funding to advance technology, marketing function, operations and customer support.