During the worst throes of the COVID-19 pandemic, very few people could travel. Meanwhile, both 2021 and 2022 were predicted to be the years of “revenge travel” where people would do a great deal more. Or at least plan more.
In the background was a site that allowed people to travel virtually, either out of sheer interest, or to plan their own travel. Heygo’s live tours are livestreamed by, it says, tour guides in more than 90 countries and counting. Think “Twitch, but for travel”.
It’s clear that plenty of people cottoned-on to the site and its usefulness during the pandemic, because Heygo has now raised a $20 million Series A funding round, led by Northzone. Also Participating was Lightspeed Venture Partners, Point 9 Capital, TQ Ventures and Ascension.
Heygo is tapping into a different kind of creator economy. Their guides can share the places and subjects they love on their own live channels with a global audience while earning money via tips. It’s managed to hit a 300% growth in bookings this January over last year, and recently hit the 2 million bookings mark, claims the company.
Co-founder and CEO John Tertan told me: “We have everything from, you know, someone walking around Machu Picchu, to giving cooking classes in Hanoi, to renting planes and going over volcanoes. So it’s all about streaming the real world and talking about what local individuals are passionate about or sharing stories about themselves or all those different places.”
He said viewers join for free, ask questions of the individual streamer / guide then people tip them. The platform takes a rev share on that, but the guides keep most of the money tipped. Heygo will also now be launching a dedicated in-house streaming app. This will likely set it apart from, say, virtual Airbnb or Amazon “experiences” which mushroomed during the pandemic.
“Heygo is one of those exceptional cases where a company has created a service that you feel should have always existed,” said Michiel Kotting, partner at Northzone and a board member. “Their interactive, guided streams are the Twitch equivalent of the hugely popular travel show and documentary genre, creating a new category of immersive world travel from home.”
Also in the round was a series of angels, including Pippa Lamb, partner at Sweet Capital; Guillaume Pousaz, founder of Checkout; Lawrence Leuschner, founder of Tier; Bastian Lehmann, founder of Postmates; Scott Chacon, founder of Github (through SCNE Ventures); Ian Hogarth, founder of Songkick; Matt Robinson, founder of GoCardless and Nested; Richard Mabey, founder of Juro; and others. Michiel Kotting, Paul Murphy and Kolja Hebenstreit joined Heygo’s board as a result.