Viajala metasearch
3 years ago
 

Startup pitch: Viajala gains traction in Latin American metasearch

Viajala is a travel metasearch website that focuses on the Spanish-speaking Latin American market.

It is especially strong in having suppliers from low-cost carriers, airlines, and accommodations in Colombia, where it is based, as well as in Chile and Peru. It recently opened operations in Mexico. It has been integrating with global suppliers.

It has raised $130,000 from Telefonica, Start-Up Chile, WeHostels’ founder Diego Saez-Gil, and one of GrooveShark’s founders, Andrés Barreto. It is currently putting together a larger seed round.

In January, it received 480,000 unique visitors across its various country-specific websites, representing 25%-a-month revenue growth in the past six months.

In the past year, most of its traction has come from its primary market Colombia, where it has partnered with the leading media group CEET

Viajala has created a Vine to show its promise.

A Q&A with CEO Thomas Allier

Tell us how you founded the company, why and what made you decide to jump in and create the business.

After 3 years working as a Product Development Manager for a large e-commerce marketplace company in France (Rakuten Travel’s PriceMinister), I moved to Colombia for personal motivations.

I founded Viajala out of Colombia, along with my co-founders, because we could not find an efficient way to search for flights.

Four out of seven commercial domestic airlines there are not distributed through the main GDSes and could not be searched through any travel sites.

Also, the online travel agencies (OTAs) available through global metasearch sites are mostly irrelevant because they do not offer suitable online payment options for local travellers, who may lack credit cards or prefer to pay in installments.

Colombia is a country of 40 million people, mountains, and many poor roads, which is why business travellers and middle class leisure travellers are demanding more and more air travel.

Air ticket sales have been growing steadily, reaching 31 million passengers in 2014.

We figured that what was true for Colombia also applied for most of the LATAM region where we would eventually be able to scale.

We have integrated data from Amadeus, the global distribution system (GDS), as well as cut exclusive deals with suppliers.

Size of the team, names of founders, management roles and key personnel?

The founding team includes Thomas Allier (CEO), Julien Vincent (CTO), Josian Chevallier (VP business dev), Catalina Jaramillo (VP operations) and Luc Guilhamon (VP traffic acquisition).

Viajala currently has 8 employees, 4 of whom are French, 3 are Colombian and 1 is French-American. We are in the process of adding new developers to the team.

Funding arrangements?

We have raised $130,000 USD so far from a few angel investors including Diego Saez-Gil (founder of YC-backed Bluesmart and WeHostels) and Andrés Barreto (founder of Grooveshark and OnSwipe).

We received our initial push from Start-Up Chile back in 2013 before getting into Telefonica’s incubator Wayra last year.

Eventually, we received a grant from Medellin innovation center “Ruta-N” to move our HQ to Medellin, a city that has overcome many issues over the past decades to offer affordable tech talents and a superior quality of life to expats.

We broke even back in September 2014 with very limited resources, which is why we consider Viajala to have been mostly bootstrapped so far.

However, our +25% monthly revenue growth rate for the past 12 months has generated interest from investors of LATAM and Europe. We are currently in the process of closing a series seed round to grow our tech team and the company in Mexico.

Estimation of market size?

In 2015, online travel market of LATAM will be well north of $20 billion (USD), according to Phocuswright research. I roughly estimate that metasearch could penetrate 0.4% of this market, based on what happens in mature markets, which gives us a $100 million opportunity.

Competition?

Our current focus excludes Brazil, where the competition is high with Mundi and Skyscanner dominating the metasearch landscape there.

In our current markets (the Andean Region and Mexico), we sometimes compete with online travel agencies (which also are our customers) for user acquisition. Despegar is a strong leader in all of our market.

We have not seen any global metasearch showing serious commitment into the region so far, except for in Brazil.

Revenue model and strategy for profitability?

Listed suppliers and OTAs pay us a commission on a CPC or CPA basis. We also monetize our advertising spaces through direct CPM deals.

Our flight vertical currently accounts for most of our revenues, but we hope to fill the gap within next year.

What problem does the business solve?

There is a huge diversity of suppliers (airlines, low-cost-carriers, etc.) in LATAM, most of which are not distributed through the main GDS and not listed by the OTAs and global metasearchers.

Regional OTAs do offer suitable form of payments for local travellers, but miss a part of the relevant inventory. Also, travellers prefer to book directly for the airlines website.

At Viajala, we enable LATAM travellers to search relevant OTA and suppliers, and book directly from their website of choice, saving them time and hassle.

How did the initial idea evolve and were there changes/any pivots along the way in the early stages?

It is a proven business model so we have pretty much kept the same direction since the beginning.

We started with flights and release our hotel metasearch product a few months ago, which is more diversification of revenues rather than a pivot.

Why should people or companies use the business?

Travellers from LATAM should use our product to search all the relevant suppliers and OTAs at once.

Our integrations with local travel agencies (such as Aviatur, PriceTravel, and Costamar) and suppliers (such as VivaColombia, Easyfly, and ADA) allow us to be more exhaustive in terms of fares and availabilities and often cheaper.

All of our partners’ websites enable payment options tailored to our local travellers.

Suppliers and OTA should list their offer in Viajala to get access to our exclusive and fast-growing audience of 480,000 monthly local travellers from LATAM, sell directly through their website, while controlling their return on investment thanks to our performance-based models.

What is the strategy for raising awareness and the customer/user acquisition?

Beside PR, we are focusing on digital channels to keep control on our ROI.

Last year, we hired Luc Guilhamon to help us scale paid traffic while remaining profitable. We have built an in-house SEM platform to automate the processes of scaling our campaigns.

Yet over 60% of our traffic is organic because our products are great. We keep improving them constantly through new inventory integrations and A/B testing of the user interface.

Last but not least, we work with a hand of top affiliates, including largest Colombian newspaper El Tiempo, through white-label websites, widgets and banners. Our current network of affiliates accumulate 40 million monthly unique visitors.

Where do you see the company in three years time and what specific challenges do you anticipate having to overcome?

Our goal is to become the leading travel search website in the Andean region and Mexico within 3 years. We need to grow our hotel vertical and presence in Mexico by then, too.

What is wrong with the travel, tourism and hospitality industry that it requires a startup like yours to help it out?

The fragmentation of the supply in LATAM (and other regions) has made travel search very painful for users.

Viajala has been able to overcome that issue, through direct partnerships and integrations with suppliers and travel agencies.

We have been educating the market and helped some of our partners to build the technology required for us to connect with their inventory in real-time, resulting in a better travel search experience for our users.

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?

Kayak for their tech focus and user-centric approach of product development.

Which company would be the best fit to buy your startup?

An OTA (regional or global) willing to increase its position in LATAM.

Describe your startup in three words?

LATAM travel metasearch

Tnooz view:

Viajala has a solid leadership team, which includes former executives from successful e-commerce companies Voyages-SCNF.com, Expedia, Shopzilla, and Rakuten Travel’s PriceMinister.

It also seems to be close to product market fit. The upcoming round of funding could help it scale more quickly.

It has been efficiently rolling out improvements to its platform. Within the next month, for instance, it will add a user reviews aggregator to its hotel listings, which will improve the site’s usefulness.

Overall, a very impressive start to a promising startup. Tnooz wishes Viajala the best.

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Sean O'Neill

About the Writer :: Sean O'Neill

Sean O’Neill had roles as a reporter and editor-in-chief at Tnooz between July 2012 and January 2017.

 

Comments

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  1. William Beckler

    Breaking even in travel metasearch at this early stage is an incredible feat. These guys really know their stuff and they’re nailing it!

     
    • Thomas Allier

      Thanks Bill! Still a long way to go, but we will for sure maintain the same sense of urgency and keep executing as well as we can.

       
  2. Marco

    Last month I met in Argentina the co-founders of another metasearch for Latam (Turismocity.com), I also know people from Mundi.com.br, They’re all very optimistic. It seems the market is growing in Latam.

     
 
 

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