Stride raises $2.5M from JetBlue, NFX for its guided trips marketplace

Group travel — it’s something you either love or hate, but Stride, which describes itself as a marketplace for “experiential multi-day and multi-destination packaged trips planned by experts,” wants to change this perception. The service, which was co-founded by former Starwood Hotels and Viator executive Gavin Delany, today announced that it has raised a $2.5 million seed round from JetBlue Ventures and NFX. In addition, it rolled out its new TripFinder feature, which makes it easier to find the right tour from the more than 30,000 travel itineraries from its partners in its database.

The service first launched in 2016. Delany decided to focus on trips because of his own frustration with finding the right operator to hike the Inca Trail in Peru. “At the time, there was no platform that allowed you to search and compare different itineraries and operators,” he told me. And that’s exactly what Stride wants to do: help you find the right operator, no matter whether you are looking for a relaxed multi-day, multi-generational jaunt through Europe or a personalized extreme sports adventure.

Unsurprisingly, most of Stride’s users are exactly the kind of travelers you’d expect to be interested in a guided tour. They tend to be older, more affluent and obviously interested in seeing the world. “They have the time, they have the money and they have the inclination to see the world. They want their adventure, but they want their comfort, too,” said Delany. Still, the company is also seeing a growing interest from younger clients who want to use the service to book small group or private tours, as well as pre-planned self-guided itineraries.

That’s where TripFinder comes in, which makes it far easier to find the right tour by guiding you through a few questions about who you are, where … Read the rest

Investors just gave NFX $275 million more to fund seed-stage startups focused on ‘network effects’

It’s the worst kept secret in the world of startup funding. Series A rounds today are the equivalent of what used to be called Series B rounds. The checks are bigger, but so are the expectations around revenue and traction.

That shift has created more of a vacuum for seed-stage companies. While there are plenty of individuals willing to plug money into nascent startups, and no shortage of micro VC funds focused on them, there is a dearth of funds with the kind of resources typically reserved for outfits that are picking up momentum. Think recruiting, HR, marketing, community building.

You might not think a budding company would need all of these pieces. But NFX, a now four-year-old, San Francisco-based investment fund, argues that they do. And toward that end, it has persuaded investors — foundations, endowments and 50 individual investors — to provide it with $275 million in capital commitments for its second fund just one year after closing its debut fund with $150 million.

These investors seem to be buying into a number of things when it comes to NFX, which was originally founded as a kind of accelerator program for startups growing so-called network effects businesses. The idea, broadly, was that the more users a product has, the better the product becomes for future users.

Last year, NFX decided to ditch the accelerator piece and restructure as a more traditional venture firm. But its focus on network effects still very much defines the firm, largely because its founders have all created businesses that have grown via network effects in their own careers. Its three general partners — James Currier, Pete Flint and Gigi Levy-Weiss — have been involved in the founding of the social network Tickle (sold to Monster.com in 2004), the home buyers’ site Trulia … Read the rest