News Kayak founder Paul English has just raised $15 million in funding for his Lola Travel is a shot in the arm for a travel tech industry stagnant since months. According to the news, Lola received a fresh infusion of capital from Charles River Ventures, General Catalyst and Accel. Here’s a brief snapshot of a new company that says it’s going to provide on-demand, personal service to the world of travelers.
By way of a brief background, English, who left Kayak back in 2014 to found Blade, eventually morphed that startup into Lola Travel. Kayak was bought out in 2012 by Priceline (Nasdaq: PCLN) for $1.8 billion and is in the news this week on the make for a metasearch acquisition. Fast forward to Lola Travel, the revitalized service connects consumers to travel agents through a smartphone app, ih an effort to make travel booking simpler. Only last year Lola was joined by Microsoft Bing Travel executive Krista Pappas, who assumed the role of VP of the startup’s membership program. No doubt Pappas’ connections established via Bing Travel will be better served with English’s app. Bing Travel never really got off the ground, nor did Bing itself for that matter. I had some dealings early on with both via a friend at MS, but interjecting either ideas or momentum into Microsoft’s heavy corporate maze is near impossible. Pappas is probably familiar.
Anyway, English’s Lola Travel appears to be ramping up hiring along with funding. The former Kayak founder told Skift recently that his new company is in its infancy (state one) phase. As a test, I contacted Lola’s real-time assistance to see if a live person would respond. Sure enough, seconds later a nice young lady named Jenni responded and connected me with Lola Travel’s PR department. Of course, I could have found them myself, but the engagement and reaction is meaningful for any travel startup intent on differentiating. Lola’s dogma foretells of “premium” personalized travel caring, and if they can pull it off they’ll definitely be different.
Unfortunately, Lola Travel is not available for Android yet, so I could not do a brief test to show you the app. However, on the responsiveness angle, I waited about 20 minutes and was about to post when a mail arrived from Alexis Eliopoulos, Director of Public Relations for Lola directing me to a short Medium post about the funding round. Underwhelmed in the end by the Kel & Partners account exec, I licked my technology guru -beta testing legend wounds and scraped up the following on my own. (Sorry, old age and 50,000 articles has made me cranky?)
English told the Boston Globe that Lola is preparing a new version of the app featuring hotel recommendations aided by artificial intelligence (AI) software. The startup has previously raised $19.7 million from venture investors according to Crunchbase. In social I found a shadow of an effort to engage along with some competitor bashing, but nothing that would indicate massive marketing moves. For me 715 Facebook likes for a startup with major funding is tantamount to “we don’t care” about your channels. Clearly English prefers Medium and the team seems to be toying with Instagram too, but perhaps the backend and biz dev are in focus for right now.
Anyway, I had intended a more complete report, but I’ll revert on HospitalityNet and/or Travel Daily News as more comes in on this interesting startup. Maybe the AI behind is so good, and maybe the money bags are so deep, English’s team doesn’t need any free media :) Ouch.