Twitch For Travel backed by VCs as post-pandemic winner
Zoom cocktail hours, Peloton home workouts and live city tours may at first glance seem to share the same expiration date as pandemic lockdowns, but venture capitalists are betting 20 million dollars on the future of British travel streaming startup Heygo.
The London-based team has elevated the Series A tour to a $120m valuation to fuel the growth of its platform that connects guides who livestream city and market tours to audiences viewers eager to travel but who stay at home.
The startup has already booked 2 million visits since November 2020 that range from exploring The districts of Paris to ski tours from Banff National Park in Canada and continued to grow even as travel reopened to large parts of Europe and North America, according to John Tertan, co-founder and CEO of Heygo.
“I’m personally encouraged that people aren’t doing those Zoom cocktail hours anymore, but they’re continuing on Heygo and more than ever,” Tertan says. “There was never any question of replacing travel. You don’t stop playing video games just because you’re on Twitch, it’s more than enhancing that experience and we want to be that platform that helps travel and culture enthusiasts achieve more.
Tertan says the round led by venture capital fund Northzone, alongside Lightspeed Venture Partners and Berlin-based Point Nine Capital, would allow Heygo to invest in developing its streaming technology and aspect. community of its application. “People come for the experience, but they stay because they become friends with the guide or each other and it’s about improving that side of the platform,” he says.
Heygo tours are currently free and the platform shares tip revenue with its streamers, who are mostly professional guides, says Tertan, who added that it would experiment with paid tours.
The startup is not the first to try to connect potential tourists with guides, but a startup GetYourGuide, TripAdvisor-owned Viator, and Airbnb Experiences have largely focused on serving as tour and activity booking platforms. YouTube, Meta and Twitch also offer hours and hours of live travel content, but Tertan says Heygo could offer a dedicated home for the “passion economy”.
Northzone Partner Michael Kotting says Heygo has created a new category of entertainment that delivers the travel experience in a sustainable way. “Heygo is one of those exceptional cases where a company has created a service that you think should have existed forever,” says Kotting. “Their interactive, guided streams are the Twitch equivalent of the hugely popular travel show and documentary genre, creating a new category of immersive world travel from home.”
The timing of Heygo’s rise comes as one of the biggest winners of the pandemic – virtual event startup Hopin –reduced by about 12% staff just six months after raising $450 million in a Valuation of $7.75 billionand a sell-off in publicly traded tech stocks that weighed heavily on other lockdown favorites like Peloton and Robinhood.
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