SME-focused business travel booking platform TravelPerk has topped up the $160 million in equity and debt it raised last in a Series D last April with an additional $115 million -- closing out the round at $275 million.
TravelPerk said its business is now being valued at $1.3 billion -- meaning it's achieved coveted "unicorn" status.
In total, it has raised $409 million since being founded back in 2015.
The company declined to disclose a valuation when it took in the earlier slice of equity and debt last year, so the Barcelona-based startup is sounding more confident going into 2022 versus spring 2021.
That said, it's not clear how much of the $115 million tranche is equity versus debt -- a spokeswoman for the startup declined to provide a break down or a clear answer when we asked, saying only: "This round is a mix of equity and debt funding."
Update: TravelPerk has now confirmed that the $115 million portion of the Series D is in fact "100% equity", although the D round as a whole contained a debt mix via the earlier closing.
The final tranche of the D round was led by U.S. VC firm General Catalyst, a new investor in the business, along with existing backer Kinnevik.
Another investor in this slice of the Series D, Gillian Tans, ex-chairwoman and CEO of Booking.com -- who is investing in a personal capacity -- is joining the board of directors alongside Joel Cutler, an early investor in Stripe, Airbnb and Kayak.
Commenting in a statement, Tans said: “I have been working in the travel industry for many years, and TravelPerk is the one company that never ceases to surprise me. It has solidified its leadership position over the last two years in challenging times for the travel industry, emerging stronger than ever. They are innovative and have been able to anticipate and address their customers’ changing needs through major acquisitions, new market entries, and product designs. I’m honored to be joining as an investor and the Board of Directors at TravelPerk and to help the company reach a global leadership position.”
General Catalyst MD Joel Cutler added in another supporting statement: “Hybrid and remote working is undoubtedly here to stay but a Zoom call will never be able to replicate the benefits of in-person, face-to-face interaction. We have no doubt that business travel will continue to grow and thrive in the years ahead, with TravelPerk as the clear leader in the space, and we’re thrilled to be participating in this funding round."
It's certainly been a tough couple of years for the travel sector generally -- and for work trips in particular -- given the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has led to scores of conference cancelations and accelerated tools and tech around virtual meetings, which offer a low-friction, low-cost alternative to business travel for physical meetings.
In person industry events did start to pick up again last year -- with major tech conferences such as the GSMA's Mobile World Congress, Web Summit and CES (earlier this year) taking place in some capacity -- but it's typically been with vastly reduced attendance versus pre-pandemic years.
Streaming continues to be a popular choice for workers and employers to avoid the risk and hassle associated with pandemic-era business travel.
Despite obvious demand-side challenges for business travel, TravelPerk has continued to present a bullish front throughout this period -- operating a no layoffs policy and splashing out on a number of acquisitions aimed at tooling up for COVID-19-triggered changes to how people are travelling for work.
It has also managed to tap investors to continue backing its platform as it reconfigures its feature mix to support changing business travel needs.
TravelPerk said the Series D will be used to double down on product development -- with a focus on building tools for an era of hybrid working. Albeit, its focus is on trying to expand the portion of physically co-located working that's going on.
A recent feature, added to TravelPerk's platform in November, is an events organizing tool aimed at nudging customers to plan and book in-person get togethers, such as for an offsite, a party or a meeting of new starters. "TravelPerk Events enables remote and hybrid teams to connect in real life," runs its marketing spiel for the tool.
“As time goes by, it is clear that there won’t be a replacement for the human touch. We are seeing data on our platform and we are feeling it ourselves," argues CEO Avi Meir in a statement. “While some technologies are focused on virtual interactions, TravelPerk is building the technology that will help us get together in real life.”
The startup is also ploughing money into developing what it bills as "sustainable" travel solutions.
Last fall TravelPerk acquired a U.K.-based corporate responsibility consultancy, called Susterra, to beef up its ability to offer tools for customers to calculate a travel-related carbon footprint.
It was already offering carbon offsetting to try to grease bookings in spite of the existential challenge posed by climate change -- which will require massive, swift global reductions in carbon emissions if humanity is to avoid environmental catastrophe, thereby presenting an obvious challenge to travel industry growth.
Nonetheless, TravelPerk is doing the opposite of talking down its growth prospects.
It said expanding in the U.S. is another focus for the Series D -- a market that became its largest a year ago when it acquired U.S.-based rival NexTravel.
It also plans to use the funding to double down on growth in its other large market: Europe.
Since 2019 (so pre-pandemic), TravelPerk said its business has grown 4x in terms of annualised revenue. It also said it has doubled its customer acquisition rate -- albeit a considerable chunk of recent onboarding is likely to have come from acquisitions over this period.
As well as buying U.S.-based NexTravel at the start of last year, it also picked up the U.K.'s Click Travel last summer, at the time the largest business travel platform in the country.