Alex Simon, CEO, and Frankie Scerbo, CMO, got the idea for the Los Angeles-based startup three years ago after bonding over a love of spontaneous travel, but not finding enough options within their budget.
Elude, a travel discovery mobile app, is a budget-first search engine that shows people how far their money will take them. The platform’s personalized onboarding experience customizes trip packages and offers future travel suggestions based on those preferences.
The new $3 million round was led by ATX Venture Partners, with Mucker Capital, Unicorn Ventures, Upfront Scout Fund, StartupO, Grayson Capital, Gaingels, Maccabee Ventures and Flight VC participating. This brings Elude’s total funding to more than $5 million.
“We felt momentum on the heels of our launch in August and that has continued,” Simon said in an interview. “Current investors spoke to us about our plan and what we wanted to accomplish and were supportive of that.”
Indeed, with millennials spending more than $200 billion annually on travel, Elude’s goal is to reduce the hours of scrolling in search of a trip and more time actively booking vacations. Whereas competitors may show flights only or hotels only, Elude produces flight and hotel packages.
The latest funding will go toward hiring engineers to assist with feature rollouts. Elude launched on iOS, but has plans to launch a web version and Android version in the coming months. Other features in the works include better personalization approaches to maximize recommendations and expanding beyond flight and hotel. The company is also expanding its marketing and will introduce some paid advertising.
Over 25,000 users have signed up to use the app so far, with many of the searches coming from the coasts, Colorado and Texas, Scerbo noted.
In choosing investors to be included in the round, the co-founders said most of them had dabbled in travel before, and with demand for the industry coming back following a halt during the pandemic, the number of travelers is creeping back up to where it was in 2019.
“It shows momentum behind what we are doing,” Simon added. “Before, we were showing proof of concept, but now we are showing that demand and conversation is going on.”
With Elude attracting users from the Texas market, the co-founders said they were intrigued by ATX Venture Partners to lead the round. Chris Shonk, co-founder and partner at ATX, said his firm was equally attracted to the company.
ATX Venture Partners likes to see companies doing innovative things in industries that have survived, like travel, where there had been consolidation among venture-backed companies previously.
Now there are sectors, like what Guild and Sonder are doing in alternative accommodations, and boutique discovery engines like Elude.
“From day one, Elude wanted to have a different approach where the community, content, brand and vibe were edgy and fun,” Shonk said. “This resonates well with the younger demographic, who have spent a huge amount of money traveling relative to other groups.”
He went on to say that the future of travel will have to be redefined: It used to be about just business or just pleasure, but today, the answer is both or neither. With people now working from anywhere, the future of work is a grey line between work and pleasure, and startups are working to solve that.
Though the redefinition has only begun, Shonk believes that the travel industry is full of passionate founders “who have an emotional mission to go out and solve something they experienced as a traveler, but they are not thinking big enough and that is fine.”
“The whole industry is hyper inquisitive, and many of the startups were gobbled up by Booking.com or Expedia,” he added. “There are now throngs of $25 million to $50 million companies being created here, but not a lot of $1 billion companies. Frankie and Alex saw it differently, and are bold in vision and planning what to do and put in place. They are able to take this venture money and create a $1 billion company.”
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