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A Ferry Booking Startup Raises €2.6M Series A In Bulgarian-Greek VC Co-Investment Led By LAUNCHub Ventures

FerryHopper
©Wassilis Gaitanos on Unsplash

In times when the travel industry is experiencing significant struggles, FerryHopper, a three-year-old Greek startup on a mission to simplify the booking of ferry tickets has attracted €2.6M in Series A funding. The Bulgarian VC firm LAUNCHub Ventures is the lead investor while previous investors Metavallon VC and easyGroup have also joined the round. To date, FerryHopper has added more than 300 destinations in 10 countries, building a 37-people team in the meantime. Since 2017, through the platform of the young travel tech company have been sold about one million ferry tickets.  

The new investment will be used towards the company’s further international expansion, as well as the optimization and development of services, products, and infrastructure. Following the successful addition of Spanish and Italian destinations during 2019, Ferryhopper will continue to expand and integrate new destinations and ferry operators in the Mediterranean and Northern Europe during the next year. The company estimates that the market size for ferry ticket sales in Europe is about €4 billion.

“Our first next target is to make sure that the company and the team will continue to grow and evolve, even in this very unstable and difficult environment. However, our longer-term targets and vision remain unspoiled and we count on this funding round fueling our future steps: The strong establishment in the Greek and regional market, the expansion on the whole European continent in the next two-three years, and the continuous development of innovative products and ferry related services remain our priorities,” tells Trending Topics Christos Spatharakis, co-founder and CEO at FerryHopper. 

Adapting to the crisis

In practice, FerryHopper brings together ferry aggregators, individual ferry operators, and travel agents through an unified reservation API that integrates millions of route combinations, prices, and booking classes. All this data is used to power a simple booking experience with options for itineraries between locations without a direct ferry connection, island hopping, and mobile tickets. 

In terms of business model, FerryHopper relies on affiliate marketing partnerships with ferry companies and white-labeling as was the case with the easyFerry platform last year. 

“The ferry market had two-three very difficult months, following the catastrophe of the travel industry as a whole. During this period our focus was to help our customers, to offer alternative solutions, to be there for them. It is very important in such a situation to stand by your customer, I would say is the essence of the travel agent. Other than that, I wouldn’t say we pivoted, but we redefined our customer acquisition methods, our target audiences, our modus operandi. Through the same path and towards the same target but with different steps and milestones,” shares Spatharakis.

For LAUNCHub Ventures, this is the third investment for 2020 after Cleanshelf and Leanplum, and apparently, despite the difficult times, the firm is more focused on the long run. 

“We are extremely excited to lead Ferryhopper’s Series A round of funding and support the team’s growth journey. The ferry transport is an essential industry, which can benefit largely from the use of technology. The company has achieved impressive results so far without significant investments. We believe this is a result of the phenomenal customer focus and the great platform that Ferryhopper has built,” explains Stanislav Sirakov, Partner at LAUNCHub Ventures. 

Sirakov’s sentiment was backed by other investors in the round. 

“The way the FerryHopper team managed the COVID-19 crisis is exemplary: they changed their operations overnight, they went through all stress test scenarios, they completed their mobile app development, enhanced their content marketing and switched their business model to local tourism for 2020. Ferryhopper’s goal remains to get established as the number one ferry booking engine in Europe within the next two-three years”, says Myrto Papathanou, Partner at Metavallon VC.

“In a difficult time for all travel companies worldwide, I will continue to invest in a software business which is well-placed to capitalise on the return of travel norms, once they occur. The online platform easyFerry.com, part of the easy family of brands in Greece and powered by Ferryhopper, will become a reliable source of information for people looking for the best ferry options in Greece and beyond. People trying to figure out the timetables for all ferry companies or looking for the best value for money options in the post-coronavirus era will trust easyFerry.com to deliver just that. With a good portion of the business focusing on domestic ferry traffic to the Greek islands, which is practically back to normal, I am certain that the platform’s booking volumes will recover faster than international travel options,” shares Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou, founder and owner at easyGroup.

Towards a more united SEE ecosystem? 

While the small markets in Southeastern Europe assume that the separate countries could benefit from putting resources together to help the ecosystem reach the next level, there has not been that many deals that involve investors from multiple locations in the region. One of the bigger exceptions is FintechOS, which in the first half of  2019 closed a €1.1M post-seed round led by Romanian fund Gapminder and joined by LAUNCHub Ventures and other private investors.

“We think local cross-border deals are a great way to create synergies, both at the start-up and VC level, as Southeast Europe is really one market and the opportunities in terms of a strong talent pool as well as the business expansion challenges are very similar. With strong local backers, companies from the region can thrive at both pan European and global level,”  commented on the topic Papathanou.

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