Edinburgh start-up TravelNest taps into £150 billion holiday rental market

An Edinburgh-based tech start-up has secured £1.8 million in funding to help drive staycation growth.

Doug Stephenson and Rebecca Moore of TravelNest, which is based in Edinburgh.

In common with the wider travel industry, TravelNest has experienced a bookings downturn amid the coronavirus pandemic but the holiday rental platform has seen a bookings bounce back as traveller confidence begins to return.

The firm has netted £1.8m from Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) and Scottish Enterprise to help support a strong rebound from Covid-19.

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Founder and chief executive Doug Stephenson said: “We are excited about the year ahead. The changing dynamics of travel play to our advantage and present a huge opportunity for TravelNest and our customers.

“Industry data shows that people are opting for holiday rentals over hotels, and there is also a marked shift in travel behaviour with more domestic travel and a preference for accommodation in rural rather than urban settings.”

The firm’s product is said to improve occupancy rates for holiday rental properties by automating marketing and increasing exposure on top booking sites such as Airbnb, Booking.com, Expedia, TripAdvisor, Vrbo and Tui, while reducing administration time for property owners.

Since some lockdown measures eased earlier this year, TravelNest has recorded triple-digit increases in nights booked via its platform.

The funding is comprised of a £1.5m Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) loan from Silicon Valley Bank and £300,000 from Scottish Enterprise’s Early Stage Growth Challenge Fund, which was set up to assist high-growth companies where the impact of Covid has had a negative effect on a company’s revenue, working capital costs or access to equity investment.

The funds will be used to further product development and grow the company’s customer base.

TravelNest raised £3m in seed investment backed by Pentech, Mangrove Capital Partners and Frontline Ventures in 2017. This was followed by a successful £5.1m Series A funding round in 2019. The firm’s software product – an online marketing platform – was launched in 2018.

Former Skyscanner chief operating officer (COO) Mark Logan, who authored the recent Scottish Government-commissioned Scottish technology ecosystem review, is a non-executive director on TravelNest’s board and Rebecca Moore, previously senior director for growth in Europe and the Americas at Skyscanner, joined the company last year and is now its COO.

Moore said: “We’ve had amazing support from Silicon Valley Bank, first as a banking client and now as the recipient of a CBILS loan.

“The bank’s team has a deep understanding of the high-growth start-up sector and also understood the market dynamics we were faced with earlier in the year. We’re also incredibly grateful for the ongoing support we’ve had from Scottish Enterprise.”

Bailey Morrow, director at Silicon Valley Bank, said: “We are very excited to deepen our partnership with TravelNest. The company has shown great resilience in an incredibly trying time and we look forward to being a part of their growth story.”

In 2019, holiday rentals were 14 per cent of the global travel accommodation market – the fastest-growing travel sector and forecast to reach more than £150 billion by 2021. There are some 8.3 million homes hosted globally.

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