Today's startup pitch comes to us from Berlin, where HomeToGo operates a metasearch engine for vacation rentals.
The startup has just raised Euro 6 million in a Series A funding round from early-stage investor DN Capital and Acton Capital Partners, and other unnamed angel investors.
The team of 50+ based in Europe and is led by three co-founders, including Wolfgang Heigl who sold Swoodoo to Kayak, where he became that company's CMO for Europe.
The co-founders share their product and vision below in the Vine and Tnooz Q&A.
Tell us how you founded the company, why and what made you decide to jump in and create the business.
The vacation rentals industry is very fragmented. It’s hard for consumers to get an aggregated overview to compare different vacation rentals. We therefore saw a clear need for a metasearch engine. Because we have a very unique team with experienced people in the fields of both metasearch and vacation rentals, the natural progression was to create HomeToGo.
What is your estimation of market size?
Around $100 billion globally and growing. Vacation rentals is one of the most dynamic sectors in the travel industry.
Please describe your competition.
Metasearch is deeply rooted in other sectors such as flights and hotels. We aim for global leadership of the booming vacation rental sector. We see our main competitor is US-based Tripping.
What is your revenue model and strategy for profitability?
Our partners pay us for the traffic we send to their websites.
What problem does the business solve?
People have access to so many different types of vacation rental websites on the web. This makes the process of finding a rental very complicated, involving constant searches on search engines and switching between the search engine and various travel websites.
HomeToGo simplies this process by providing one website for users to search and compare from over 150 vacation rental providers. Users have access to over 2.7 million offers on holiday properties in over 200 countries.
Out of all the travel sectors, we believe that the vacation rental industry is where it makes most sense to use metasearch.
How did the initial idea evolve and were there changes/any pivots along the way in the early stages?
We still are in an early stage! We have been live for less than two years. Every day involves a series of micro-pivots, but it’s important for us analyse and learn fast. As a result, we didn’t had to make any major adjustments.
Why should people or companies use the business?
Quite simply, we are the quickest and most user-friendly way to find your next holiday accommodation. In one search, our users can find properties perfectly tailored to their needs on any device.
What is the strategy for raising awareness and the customer/user acquisition (apart from PR)?
At the moment we are keeping our strategy broad. Up till now, we have used TV advertising complimented by digital marketing campaigns.
Where do you see the company in three years time and what specific challenges do you anticipate having to overcome?
We want to continue to be global leaders in metasearch for vacation rentals, having expanded into many new markets. In addition to our UK website www.hometogo.co.uk, we have also launched – among others - www.hometogo.de, www.hometogo.fr and www.hometogo.it and www.hometogo.es.
What is wrong with the travel, tourism and hospitality industry that it requires a startup like yours to help it out?
There are so many great holiday rentals to discover around the world but the thing that is missing is a technological layer to aggregate these properties in one single website for the consumer in a convenient, fast and accessible way.
What other technology company (in or outside of travel) would you consider yourselves most closely aligned to in terms of culture and style... and why?
We are proud to be among Berlin’s lively startup scene, with many great companies. For example, we are fans of what GetYourGuide and Soundcloud have built in terms of product and their collaborative company culture.
Which company would be the best fit to buy your startup?
We started this to grow a sustainable, stable business. We focus on this instead of thinking too much about an exit yet.
A meta search engine for vacation rentals makes complete sense. Just like in the distributed apartment market, which was aggregated by startups like PadMapper, the distributed nature of these rentals make the sector an excellent candidate for meta. By providing a layer on top of these many listings, the startup is able to provide a better user experience and then skim a little off the top for creating a product that consumers go to before checking out any suppliers directly.
The additional financing clearly will help play out the team's global ambitions and with each new country, there's more inventory that appeals to a broader population planning trips in foreign lands.
Of course, the team must focus relentlessly on best-in-class technology since there is not much of a barrier to aggregate inventory from other sites in one interface. The company has over 30 of its 50 employees only working on technology and the tech team is headed by a former tech VP from Kayak — all positive signs pointing to success.