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Journee closes £1.75M seed round to give travellers good surprises, gets backing from Depop founder

Journee, an online tour operator that matches people with surprise holiday experiences, has secured £1.75M in seed funding. Led by Fuel Ventures and with angel investment from Depop’s founder, Simon Beckerman, and CEO, Maria Raga, the investment will be used for marketing and improving Journee’s automation as the travel market fully re-opens following the Covid-19 pandemic.

Journee was founded by three former Depop colleagues, Ed Tribe, Megha Chaturvedi, and James Gillard. Having decided that they all wanted to start their own venture, their passion for travel made it an obvious choice for them. Ed Tribe spoke with TFN about the business and how they plan to develop it as people start to explore the world again.

Making surprise travel simple

The Journee concept came from the practical experience of the co-founders. “Megha used to book holidays for her husband and would not tell him where they were heading until at the airport,” Tribe explains. They decided to test the concept, building a holiday for fellow co-founder James Gillard with just a few details from a questionnaire. “We booked and sent him off to explore Indonesia.” Tribe told us. “Once back, he said he had a better trip than if he booked it himself. That’s when we knew we were on to something.”

Journee takes the same concept for all its customers, understanding their preferences to put together a surprise trip for them. “Users only need to fill in a short online questionnaire,” Tribe says, “and we’ll match you to one of thousands of trips we do.” Once booked, Journee will provide clues and teasers in the run-up to the departure date, with the final destination revealed a few days before departure. However, Tribe says that 80% of customers don’t open the reveal postcard until they are at the airport!

The service books everything, from flights and hotels to activities at the destination. They even use WhatsApp to keep in touch with customers while they are travelling. As well as the surprise element, the service also saves customers a significant amount of time in travel planning. “They can spend up to 30 hours looking for the ideal location, a place to stay, flights, then usually forget or have just run out of steam before booking activities,” Tribe says. “We want to cut that time down to just ten minutes.” The questionnaire asks simple questions like budget and preferences, and uses those to curate the best possible trip. And travellers have agreed, with an average review of 4.9/5 for the service.

Creating travel that expands hearts and minds

Founded in 2019, Journee spent its first few years contending with the pandemic, when both restrictions and consumer hesitancy depressed the travel market. Despite that, they created over 1,500 holidays to 52 mystery destinations for adventurous travellers, although Journee caters for all ages, and for up to four people, Tribe described the most important characteristic of their customers: “They’re all culturally curious – looking to explore the thrilling, the unknown and places that expand their hearts and minds.”

The service also has no real competition. The biggest competitor is from people who book trips themselves! Although there are some companies that offer mystery bookings, none offer the full-service of Journee, says Tribe, “We’ve built the tech to truly know what’s the best adventure for you. And then we take care of everything a customer needs for a trip – flights, accommodation, and, most importantly, incredible experiences!”

The funding will help enhance that offer. The London-based business currently has 15 staff, between its London office and a remote team based in India. “We are planning to hire across operations, tech, and marketing at our London headquarter,” Tribe says. “The new funds will be directed towards marketing and furthering the sophistication of the underlying automation that matches people to destinations.”

With a world hungry for travel after years of restrictions, Journee has the potential to tap into a resurgence in travel. Maria Raga, the angel investor who first got to know the Journee co-founders when they were at Depop, praised the positive impact Journee hope to make, “They have a vision to make the world a better place by expanding people’s capacity to explore new cultures and have incredible travel experiences.”

Tribe echoes that sentiment. With the habit of summer holidays disrupted by Covid-19, he hopes Journee will tap into travellers’ desire to have adventures again. “This will be a big year for Journee as travel comes back, and the investment will help us supercharge our growth,” he says. “We are on a mission to make exploring cultures as easy and as exciting as possible. As we grow, we want to find new and different ways for Journee to be the best place to book travel adventures.”

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