I’m extremely excited to share that I’m joining travel startup Viajala as Advisor and Investor.
Viajala is a meta-search website for flights and hotels focused on the Latin American market. Meta-search websites (like Kayak, Skyscanner and Trivago) compare hundreds of sites on the web and help people find the best prices and options for their trips. The model is a win-win for both consumers, that save time on their online research, and travel companies, that receive very qualified leads ready to book. The model has proven to be so successful that last year Priceline acquired Kayak for $1.8 Billion and Expedia acquired Trivago for $800M.
While most regions around the world already have well established companies providing this service, Latin America still didn’t have a good company focused on this product locally. It’s not going to be an easy venture, as integrating with airlines, travel websites and travel agencies in Latin America will entail hard technical challenges. Additionally, consumers in the region are not yet that comfortable booking trips online, which will mean comparatively low conversion rates at the beginning.
The opportunity is huge. Latin America has more than 589M inhabitants and the economies are growing fast, including more and more people into the middle class. These new middle class families are starting to travel inside their countries and across the region. The travel industry in Latin America is expected to grow at double digits for the next few years. This opportunity has been seen by many, including one of my entrepreneurial heroes, David Neeleman, founder of JetBlue, who went ahead and founded Azul Linheas Aereas to focus on unattended internal routes of Brazil that are traveled by the middle class.
Simultaneously, millions of new Internet users are discovering e-commerce in LatAm, many of them starting with smart mobile devices. Companies such as Despegar, HotelUrbano and Atrapalo are profiting of this tremendous growth and many more billion dollar companies will potentially emerge in the online travel industry.
But beyond the opportunity (and the impressive traction of Viajala) I was compelled to join the company because of the amazing team leading it. They are a diverse team with complementary skills, very relevant experience and a demonstrated passion for the project. They also have a great story, as they are a bunch French guys who moved to Colombia plus one Colombian girl who lived in France. They have worked for companies such as Hotels/com, Voyages-SNFC, PriceMinister and Shopzilla. They are based in Medellin, Colombia.
They were part of Startup Chile, and this makes it very special for me, as I was also part of the Startup Chile program when starting WeHostels. In fact, I met Thomas at Startup Chile headquarters in Santiago last year when I was invited to speak to the current batch about my experience building my startup. This demonstrates that entrepreneurial ecosystems actually work, by creating links and opportunities of cross-pollination and mentoring that can be of value for all.
I am extremely excited about the plans that company has for this year, including expansion to more countries, focus on mobile, improvements in the hotel service and much more. I will be helping them on product, partnerships, financing and anything that I can be of help. I’ve learned one thing or two (the hard way) on my last years building WeHostels, so I hope that I can put some of these learnings to good use. And I hope that this way I can pay forward the incredible value that I got from my own mentors and advisors.
Stay tuned for what Viajala is up to, and if you have to book your trips in Latin America you already know where to go. :)