San Francisco-based Wheel the World, a platform for people with disabilities, seniors and their families to book accessible travel, has closed a $6 million pre-Series A funding round.
Kayak Ventures led the round with support from Detroit Venture Partners, REI Path Ahead Ventures, former Booking.com CEO Gillian Tans, Dadneo, CLIN Fund, Amarena and WeBoost.
Wheel the World, a PhocusWire Hot 25 Startup for 2022, says it will use the funds to ensure that “people with disabilities can easily book and receive accommodations and travel experiences that fit their needs, both in the United States and worldwide.”
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The startup plans to expand its listings with the goal of having 12,000 travelers book through its platform by December 2024. Wheel the World is also pursuing partnerships with destination management organizations.
Wheel the World won the first Phocuswright/WebinTravel Global Startup Pitch in 2022 and also received the People’s Choice award.
“We are committed to fostering a community of travelers who trust us to provide seamless and accessible experiences. With this in mind, Wheel the World has introduced two new commitments to our users,” says Wheel the World co-founder and CEO Alvaro Silberstein.
“We now guarantee every hotel room booked on our platform will be accessible. If an accessible room is not provided upon check-in, a full refund will be provided to the customer,” Silberstein says. “Moreover, we firmly believe that accessibility should not come at a higher cost. That’s why we will now match the prices of other travel booking sites.”
Founded in 2018, Wheel the World says it has seen a four-fold increase in the number of travelers booking through its platform over the past year. In the same time period, the company has expanded its travel offerings from 50 destinations to more than 200.
In 2022, Wheel the World introduced a new series of group tours for eight to 10 people with guaranteed accessibility to destinations including Costa Rica, Morocco and Alaska.
“Making travel more accessible to everybody has always been a passion of mine,” says Tans, one of the investors. “Alvaro and Camilo [Navarro Bustos, co-founder and COO] are an example of truly executing on that mission. They are building a community that is unique, that has access to great experiences, and they are helping the ecosystem with knowledge that will accelerate building these experiences.”
The company previously raised $2 million in a 2021 seed round led by Chile Global Ventures and Dadneo, with support from Plug and Play Tech Center and YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki.
Wheel the World explains the strategy for its startup in a 2019 PhocusWire Startup Stage Q&A. The company also pitched at The Phocuswright Conference in 2021.
Wheel The World - Phocuswright Innovation Summit 2021