GetYourGuide books $194M at a $2B valuation with travel experiences back in business


Image Credits: GetYourGuide (opens in a new window) under a license.

The tourist industry is bouncing back after a rough couple of pandemic-stressed years, and in the case of some tourism and travel startups, its momentum is coming in at a pace that’s defying even the current market climate.

Today, GetYourGuide — a Berlin-based startup that has built a marketplace for finding and booking tourist, travel and other experiences, with some 75,000 experiences from 16,000 providers listed at any given time — is announcing that it has raised $194 million.

It will be using the funds in three basic areas: First, to continue expanding into new markets. Second, to add more hikes, tours and other experiential events like meeting Gianni, the key holder for the whole of the Vatican, at 6 am and turning on all the lights as you walk through the halls with him. And third, to bring in more AI and other technology to improve discovery and personalization on the platform.

The money is coming in the form of an $85 million Series F and a revolving credit facility of $109 million. Blue Pool Capital led the equity round with KKR and Temasek also participating, while UniCredit led the credit facility with participation from BNP Paribas, Citibank and KfW.

The round values GetYourGuide at $2 billion — double the startup’s valuation compared to its previous round, a monster $484 million Series E in 2019.

The funding, and valuation boost, stand out in the current market because consumer-oriented startups have been finding it extremely challenging to raise money; and all startups, not just consumer, are seeing a lot of pressure on their valuations — two trends that GYG has just bucked. (And it’s not the only travel startup making those waves: just yesterday Hostaway announced a $175 million raise.)

But the news also represents a pretty major turnaround for GetYourGuide itself.

Pre-COVID, Berlin’s GetYourGuide was one of the hottest startups in Europe, built on a very simple idea: It took one of the most old-fashioned and outdated aspects of tourism — guided tours — and reinvented them as “experiences” to meet the needs, interests and Instagrammable requirements of a new wave of younger consumers, all discoverable and bookable using everyone’s favorite device, the smartphone.

The idea took off like a rocket — a successfully launched one. Bookings went up, investors flocked to the startup, it moved into very impressive digs in the east of Berlin and people started to think that maybe it wasn’t just Airbnb that could within a decade upend how we think about travel.

Then COVID-19 happened.

“We went from high-flying to zero revenues — zero revenues for multiple quarters,” CEO and co-founder Johannes Reck recalled. “A lot of startups struggled at that time, but we were one of the worst hit. Of course, no one wanted to go on tours with other people” — which was effectively the only product that GYG offered. “It was really bad.”

Reck took a bold bet at that time: He decided that consumer behavior, the interest in experiences that had been driving business for the startup, wouldn’t change; it would likely just pause under pandemic circumstances.

“I was always convinced that we would go back and that our market would come out better than it was even pre-pandemic. First it’s because people crave experiences. COVID was a big setback but not a fork in the road where consumer behavior would be different,” he said. “Second, I was very sure travel would return, and travelers would not want to sit in hotel rooms for the next century.”

The company’s $484 million round led by SoftBank closed just months before COVID-19 hit, so GYG had plenty of cash. But on top of that it secured a $133 million convertible note, in case things got really hairy. It also laid off 20% of its staff, all told, but then it held tight. “We didn’t cut deep,” Reck said. “We stopped and waited for 8-10 months to pass.”

It took a bit longer — around two years in fact — but eventually things started to pick back up. GYG never did exercise the convertible note, Reck said.

The end of 2022, with the Omicron wave of COVID-19 subsiding, was the turning point, he recalled, with everything “just starting to fall back in place.” By Q1 of 2023, the startup was seeing booking volumes that were four times bigger than its volumes in Q1 in 2019 (the last comparable year of non-COVID normalcy). It’s not speaking specific numbers on volumes but it had about 25-30 million tickets sold on its app between 2019 and 2020; four times that would be 100-120 million.

Reck added that now it’s looking like the company is “on the route to profitability” in many of its major markets.

Of course, that route, unlike a GYG tour, doesn’t have a well-defined starting or end point, nor estimated time of arrival. But it seems to be one that investors are happy to book and follow regardless.

“There is immense opportunity in the digitization of the experiences industry, and we believe GetYourGuide’s global leadership and market-leading customer-centricity in the category stems from its deep expertise in this complex space,” said Oliver Weisberg, CEO of Blue Pool Capital, in a statement. “We believe GetYourGuide is uniquely positioned to be the global leader in the category; we are pleased to lead the equity financing given the strength of the business.”

Meanwhile, the future for GYG has a couple of interesting technology and business variables at play.

Reck said that GYG remains very committed to the idea of selling human-led group tours. That means no self-guided tours, no virtual tours, and no generative-AI created tours are on its roadmap today.

Reck calls the group tour, devised and led by an actual person, “the core product” of GYG. “Our mission just doesn’t happen if you are glued to your smartphone,” he said. He speaks not just from opinion but experience: “We’ve tested so many alternative formats, including virtual experiences,” Reck said. “They all flopped.”

But that’s not to say that there aren’t some big opportunities for using AI in the business. Reck said.

About a week ago, the company launched a ChatGPT integration that lets users initiate a search of GYG’s catalogue by way of natural-language queries. That solves a big pain point for the company, which has been that basic keyword searches are not good enough to produce useful search results.

Over time, there could also be further extensions of this where GYG can start to get more accurate ideas of what people like to do and look at to give them even more accurate search results; and GYG aggregates the data to get a better picture of what its customer base wants more or less of — analytics and data that it could in turn feed back to its suppliers to build better future tours.

“I don’t see AI as an end in itself but a tool to help suppliers and users,” he said. “There are so many different types of experiences, and AI will help figure out what is for you.”

More TechCrunch

Ahead of the AI safety summit kicking off in Seoul, South Korea later this week, its co-host the United Kingdom is expanding its own efforts in the field. The AI…

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.

8 hours 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

Keeping up with an industry as fast-moving as AI is a tall order. So until an AI can do it for you, here’s a handy roundup of recent stories in the world…

This Week in AI: OpenAI moves away from safety

After Apple loosened its App Store guidelines to permit game emulators, the retro game emulator Delta — an app 10 years in the making — hit the top of the…

Adobe comes after indie game emulator Delta for copying its logo

Meta is once again taking on its competitors by developing a feature that borrows concepts from others — in this case, BeReal and Snapchat. The company is developing a feature…

Meta’s latest experiment borrows from BeReal’s and Snapchat’s core ideas

Welcome to Startups Weekly! We’ve been drowning in AI news this week, with Google’s I/O setting the pace. And Elon Musk rages against the machine.

Startups Weekly: It’s the dawning of the age of AI — plus,  Musk is raging against the machine

IndieBio’s Bay Area incubator is about to debut its 15th cohort of biotech startups. We took special note of a few, which were making some major, bordering on ludicrous, claims…

IndieBio’s SF incubator lineup is making some wild biotech promises

YouTube TV has announced that its multiview feature for watching four streams at once is now available on Android phones and tablets. The Android launch comes two months after YouTube…

YouTube TV’s ‘multiview’ feature is now available on Android phones and tablets

Featured Article

Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

CSC ServiceWorks provides laundry machines to thousands of residential homes and universities, but the company ignored requests to fix a security bug.

2 days ago
Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

TechCrunch Disrupt 2024 is just around the corner, and the buzz is palpable. But what if we told you there’s a chance for you to not just attend, but also…

Harness the TechCrunch Effect: Host a Side Event at Disrupt 2024

Decks are all about telling a compelling story and Goodcarbon does a good job on that front. But there’s important information missing too.

Pitch Deck Teardown: Goodcarbon’s $5.5M seed deck

Slack is making it difficult for its customers if they want the company to stop using its data for model training.

Slack under attack over sneaky AI training policy

A Texas-based company that provides health insurance and benefit plans disclosed a data breach affecting almost 2.5 million people, some of whom had their Social Security number stolen. WebTPA said…

Healthcare company WebTPA discloses breach affecting 2.5 million people

Featured Article

Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Microsoft won’t be facing antitrust scrutiny in the U.K. over its recent investment into French AI startup Mistral AI.

2 days ago
Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Ember has partnered with HSBC in the U.K. so that the bank’s business customers can access Ember’s services from their online accounts.

Embedded finance is still trendy as accounting automation startup Ember partners with HSBC UK

Kudos uses AI to figure out consumer spending habits so it can then provide more personalized financial advice, like maximizing rewards and utilizing credit effectively.

Kudos lands $10M for an AI smart wallet that picks the best credit card for purchases

The EU’s warning comes after Microsoft failed to respond to a legally binding request for information that focused on its generative AI tools.

EU warns Microsoft it could be fined billions over missing GenAI risk info

The prospects for troubled banking-as-a-service startup Synapse have gone from bad to worse this week after a United States Trustee filed an emergency motion on Wednesday.  The trustee is asking…

A US Trustee wants troubled fintech Synapse to be liquidated via Chapter 7 bankruptcy, cites ‘gross mismanagement’

U.K.-based Seraphim Space is spinning up its 13th accelerator program, with nine participating companies working on a range of tech from propulsion to in-space manufacturing and space situational awareness. The…

Seraphim’s latest space accelerator welcomes nine companies

OpenAI has reached a deal with Reddit to use the social news site’s data for training AI models. In a blog post on OpenAI’s press relations site, the company said…

OpenAI inks deal to train AI on Reddit data

X users will now be able to discover posts from new Communities that are trending directly from an Explore tab within the section.

X pushes more users to Communities