What happened to Utrip? Abrupt end to Seattle travel startup blindsides investors and clients – GeekWire

Travel planning startup Utrip raises more cash, adds ex-Expedia CFO to board – GeekWire

Travel planning startup Utrip raises more cash, adds ex-Expedia CFO to board – GeekWire

Utrip CEO Gilad Berenstein accepts the award for Young Entrepreneur of the Year at the GeekWire Awards 2015.

Utrip, a platform for creating personalized travel itineraries, is planning to scale up in a big way next year.

UtripA new SEC filing reveals that the Seattle-based startup just raised $3.4 million of a $6.1 million round. Utrip CEO Gilad Berenstein wouldn’t comment on the new funding, but did tell GeekWire that Acorn Ventures, an early-stage venture fund out of Bellevue, Wash., is leading the round. Costco CFO Richard Galanti and hotelier Craig Schafer also participated. Utrip is still actively fundraising for the round.

Berenstein also said that former Expedia CFO Michael Adler has joined the company’s board of directors.

“Mike is as qualified and as knowledgeable as basically anyone else in the world when it comes to our industry and when it comes to understanding the financial levers that actually make our industry move and succeed,” Berenstein said.

Utrip will use fresh cash to make mobile a higher priority, continue developing the company’s machine learning technology, expand to 800 destinations by the end of 2017, and bring on new employees, including the startup’s first sales team.

Utrip is also doubling down on its B2B offerings. In addition to providing travel recommendations to consumers, Utrip licenses its software to hotels, tourist attractions, and other travel companies.

“We’re creating a suite of APIs that allows our B2B customers to be able to be much more targeted and personalized in the way that they interact with their customers,” said Berenstein, winner of the Young Entrepreneur of the Year at the GeekWire Awards in 2015.

Utrip currently serves 53 business clients who operate more than 300 hotels. The Holland America cruise line is one of Utrip’s biggest customers and soon the startup will announce “two of the five biggest hotel chains in the world” as clients, according to Berenstein.

utrip-product-shot-1On the consumer side, Utrip uses machine learning technology to help travelers build itineraries based on budgets, interests, and priorities. The 5-year-old startup’s consumer business has seen more than 650 percent year-over-year growth in unique users over the past year, Berenstein said.

Despite its strong and growing business, Utrip was still a little nervous when Alphabet rolled out its own travel planning app, “Google Trips,” in September.

“Any time that a giant like Google enters your space there’s a little bit of fear, but ultimately for us, we see this as an exciting opportunity,” Berenstein said.

He later said that Utrip could potentially help Google down the road.

“Google has introduced recommendations from their Google Places database,” Berenstein said. “We think, in that area, there’s a lot of room for them to grow and improve. We think that they could partner with Utrip to do that even better and faster.”

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