Today Wanderu, which aims to become the Kayak of intercity rail and bus travel, says it has closed a $2.45 million round of funding.
The round was led by Alta Ventures, an early-stage capital firm in Mexico. Investors include Craig Lentzsch, Jeff Clarke (the chairman of Orbitz), Semyon Dukach, Drummond Road Capital, and Bill Kaplan.
Wanderu recently came out of beta with the public launch of its service for the Northeast US region, where it covers routes linking cities with remote college towns. The startup plans to expand nationwide.
Work to be done
Direct connections with carrier systems are important for Wanderu to provide up-to-date schedules, pricing, and availability, and deep linking users to the end of the booking flow. It's the first bus metasearch site to offer real-time trip verification before consumers begin booking a trip on a participating carrier.
Wanderu does have direct partnerships with a dozen carriers, though it's lacking Megabus, the other player. Perhaps the funding round will be the milestone that will convince the major bus lines to overcome technological hurdles and participate.
Wanderu still doesn't have a direct connect for ticketing with Greyhound Lines, the largest of the US bus companies, but it is adding Lentzsch, the operator's former CEO to its board of directors, which might help give it insight into landing a deal. In a promising start, the company has successfully integrated ticketing from Greyhound's subsidiary BoltBus.
Wanderu doesn't just have to handle the technology challenge but it also has to invent standards. While all of the air industry players have agreed to unified programming and coding standards, none of that is in place for US bus and rail ticketing, essentially. Wanderu is inventing unified data standards.
An important milestone on the road
The company was founded a year ago by Polina Raygorodskaya, Igor Bratnikov and Eddy Wong. In March, Wanderu won SXSW Interactive Accelerator Innovative Web Technology award, an accompishment achieved by Hipmunk and Siri in previous years).
About the funding, the company says:
We will use the capital to expand its coverage, scale its data systems and release new features. We're rapidly adding to our engineering team, which currently consists of eight engineers.
Putting distance between itself and the competition
The funding round puts Wanderu much farther ahead of its rivals in this category in the US: Other bus ticketing metasearch startups like Bustripping is still struggling to gain traction. Meanwhile, Bus Catchers' heavy reliance on web scraping led to legal pressure from major bus operators and the startup decided "to move on in order to avoid having to catch a bus to federal court."
The US market for inter-city buses is growing. In 2011 and 2012, passenger volume for curb-side, long-distance bus operators like Megabus and BoltBus grew by 30%, according to a study released in January by DePaul University.
Tnooz profiled Wanderu last November.