Klarna jets into travel with Inspirock acquisition

Klarna, the global retail bank, payments and shopping service, can now add “travel agent” to that list.

The company announced Friday that it acquired Inspirock, an online trip planner using artificial intelligence and local expertise to enable Klarna’s 90 million users to quickly and easily explore a destination’s offerings and create personalized itineraries. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Inspirock, based in East Palo Alto, was founded in 2012 by CEO Anoop Goyal and Prakash Sikchi. Over 25 million travelers use Inspirock annually to plan trips based on their interests or seek out new places to visit.

David Sandstrom, Klarna

David Sandstrom, CMO of Klarna

It raised $3 million in venture capital funding in 2015, led by existing investor MakeMyTrip, one of India’s largest travel booking sites. David Sandstrom, Klarna’s chief marketing officer, told TechCrunch the entire Inspirock team is joining Klarna.

“Our goal at Inspirock has been to make planning a trip fast, fun and easy,” said Goyal in a written statement. “Together we can deliver on Klarna’s ambitions of providing a smooth shopping experience to the travel space in an innovative way. Klarna and Inspirock together can bring great inspiration, tools and shopping experiences, making planning the trip as fun as the actual trip itself.”

It’s been a busy year for Klarna, which is valued at $45.6 billion: This is the company’s fifth acquisition this year and follows three acquisitions over the summer of Apprl, Stocard and HERO, as well as Toplooks.ai earlier this year.

The acquisitions strategy so far was to enable creation of content at scale, Sandstrom said. He is bullish about ways to move into inspiration, curation and social shopping, which are key to what Klarna is doing. Sandstrom believes that e-commerce has shifted from an experience that was lonely and transactional into one that adds emotion.

“The next generation of e-commerce for me is going to be the social aspect, where we connect with peers and are able to do a deeper dive into reviews and interact with key opinion leaders,” he added. “We have put massive investments into content creation and curation, which will be an enabler for our entire customer base to create content.”

Though it might seem strange for a company like Klarna to get into the travel business, Sandstrom says the acquisition of Inspirock is his company’s way of solving another pain point for its consumers.

In this case, after booking flight and hotel reservations, helping plan what the consumer will actually do on that vacation. And, providing them a way to purchase event and attraction tickets using Klarna’s buy now, pay later service. Integrating Inspirock also provides an opportunity to connect Klarna’s 250,000 retail partners to travelers that may visit their respective areas.

Some 66% of global travel bookings are already made online, and that figure is expected to grow to 72% by 2025 as the global online travel agent market itself is poised to reach $833.5 billion by that year.

Klarna’s own research shows that an average of 21% of people around the world put travel at the top of their list for categories in which they plan to splurge on in 2021.

“Forty-two percent of people say they are frustrated planning their trips,” Sandstrom said. “There are already kick-ass sites for booking airlines and hotels, and we aren’t going into that. What we are doing is connecting local retailers and merchants with that trip planning experience so that consumers can have an easier time planning what they want to do during the visit and actually experience a city.”