As the popular guide to travel reminds us, it’s a Lonely Planet when you’re out traveling with nothing but your backpack. Fortunately, if you have a laptop or smartphone handy, there’s a new service that makes hooking up with new friends at a guest house part of the itinerary.
InBed.me, based out of Bogota, Columbia and New York, is a social-hosting site that wants to change the way people travel and find hostels, beds and couches. InBed.me announced Thursday that it's raised a $1.2 million seed round of funding from a consortium of investors that include Ventech, Quotidian Ventures, CAP Ventures, and founders Fabrice Grinda (OLX, Zingy) and Dave Lerner (Columbia Venture Labs and Venture Studios)
Like Couchsurfer and Airbnb, InBed.me targets the budget traveler, but its recent seed funding shows that there are investors out there who see big growth possible for that market and for the company.
The service, which was founded in 2011 by a group of travlers with business backgrounds, allows a traveler to book a hostel bed and see who else is booked there through the service, allowing the user to find other users and access their Facebook profiles to find new friends and be in contact with them before they arrive at their destination, in order to arrange for meet-ups. InBed.me is yet another way for people to use their Facebook profile to access new friends and make the social Web work for them in a novel context.
The company, which plans to use its funding round to develop apps for the iPhone and Android phones, was initially brain-stormed by a group of travelers in a youth hostel in Brooklyn, New York and was a part of Startup Weekend New York, where it took second place, as well as Startup Chile. The young entrepreneurs came up with the initial idea after deciding that travel is more about who you meet along the way, rather than just the places you see.
Currently, the company has only partnered with 1200 of the total estimated 50,000 youth hostels throughout the world, but as part of its expansion, it announced a partnership with Hostelworld, a company based out of Ireland which has over 25,000 hostels in its database.
We caught up with company CEO Diego Saez-Gil, who explained the plans his company has for the seed funding they've just received.
"We plan to keep integrating the social network we're partnering with, including Twitter and FourSquare, and to build out the portions of the site that have to do with profiles for both users and accomodations," said Saez-Gil. The company also has plans to develop its smart phones and to include "ambient Web" type features similar to products like Highlight, which would allow users to find other backpackers in the cities in which they are traveling.
Inbed.me is also planning to expand its network of hostels beginning with South America, where it will hire ambassadors to be in touch with hostels throughout the continent to secure partnerships with.
The company is not alone in trying to combine travel and socializing. There's Triptrotting, which just raised $1 million earlier this month. It helps travelers hook up with locals in their destination cities. There's Tripping, which raised $1 million last year. Tripping is a hospitality platform that matches hosts with travelers. Then there's Hipmunk, which recently raised 4.2 million and provides services to ease the agony of travel with information about flights available on your iPhone. And then there's Tripl, which raised $300,000 last May. This company spells out plainly the expanse of all these services - that in travel, it's not about where you go, but who you meet when you get there.