(TechCrunch) March 15, 2012 – The success of Airbnb may have unleashed a wave of attention on companies using social media and the Internet to disrupt how travel is planned and booked: today, “social” hostel booking site inBed.me is announcing that it has raised a seed round of $1.2 million, from a list of investors including Ventech, Quotidian Ventures, CAP Ventures and founders Fabrice Grinda (OLX, Zingy) and Dave Lerner (Columbia Venture Labs, Venture Studio), among others.
While Airbnb’s main focus is on offering rooms in private houses, inBed.me has turned its attention to the budget/student travel market, specifically the hostels that are the mainstay accommodation in that sector. Users can use the site to book rooms, share their bookings with others, and see who else is staying in the same place to plan a meetup in advance.
And when you think about it, this is a great idea, considering that in many cases student travelers are on the lookout to meet other people to explore new places together, and in some cases even coordinate their travels to end up in one place at the same time. (I know I could have used something like this when I did my own backpacking stint…)
In addition to its backers, the company has a nice pedigree: launched in Startup Weekend New York, it took part of Startup Chile; and participated of NXTP Labs, an Argentinian startup accelerator that is part of the TechStars Network. All that helped to catch the attention of a group of advisors that include Viator Travel founder Rod Cuthbert.
InBed.me says it will be using the funding to expand the usefulness of its service by integrating it with other social networks — currently a user can sign in with only Facebook — and developing iOS and Android apps. It also plans to initiate a strategy of growing out its business in targeted geographical locations.
First up will be South America — sensible since the company is co-headquartered in Bogota, Colombia and New York; but also because of the imminent arrival of the World Cup in Brazil, and the fact that this is a popular destination among students and young backpacking travelers at the moment.
Founded only last year, right now there are only 1,200 hostels on inBed.me, but as part of its expansion, it is also announcing a partnership with Hostelworld, an Ireland-based company that is currently the market leader in booking hostels online.
That will see the integration of Hostelworld’s database into inBed.me’s system to allow people to book beds in some 25,000 hostels. This was a smart move on the part of inBed.me, because in a sense Hostelworld is probably its biggest competitor. (Crazily enough, that still accounts for only half the hostels in the world: the company says there are some 50,000 in operation today.)
Ultimately, the company’s CEO, Diego Saez-Gil, tells me that the goal is to widen out to include other kinds of places to stay, and to focus on more regional expansion. Europe will probably be next up for the company, he says.