Company name: Voyhoy
Headquarters: Miami, with operations office in Santiago, Chile.
Concept: Voyhoy is a multimodal travel platform in Latin America, helping people compare and buy tickets on buses, planes, ferries and trains. The startup focuses on the most affordable tickets for the most price-sensitive travelers in the region.
Story: Despite diverse backgrounds, Voyhoy co-founders Jake Moskowitz, Roger Robinson and Ignacio Vial can thank coincidence and Santiago’s tightly-knit expat community for bringing them together. To affordably book trips for his clients at his former tourism company while working in Chile, Moskowitz, from Atlanta, would visit multiple bus terminals with wads of cash and sit in line for hours to buy seats on passenger buses rather than pay for an expensive charter bus. For personal travel, he and Robinson, an expat from Washington, D.C., struggled to find transportation information online and constantly encountered problems with disorganized ticket offices.
They found that travelers in Latin America are faced with ever-increasing options to get from point A to point B. But limited connectivity and route coverage, disproportionate trip prices, and a lack of transparent information, the best route is rarely apparent. Also, most travel sites that cater to Latin America only sell flights — the most expensive mode of transportation — whereas most travelers prefer more affordable options like buses and low-cost airlines, most of which are not even listed on travel sites in the region. This fragmentation forced travelers to buy their tickets in person or on the individual sites of each operator without comparing multiple companies at once.
The co-founders, including Vial, a Chilean native, created a free version of Voyhoy as a proof of concept. “After traffic grew quickly and more and more travelers were using Voyhoy to find the best trip, we decided to make this our lives’ mission,” Moskowitz said.
Voyhoy received initial funding from local Chilean investors to hire developers and build a monetized version of Voyhoy: “We then simply followed the demand, partnering with the companies that offered the routes with the highest search volumes in Voyhoy. Each time we added a new company, our revenue increased.” Voyhoy was then accepted into a highly competitive Techstars accelerator program focused on mobility.
As it was Santiago’s community that brought the team together, it was a leader in Miami’s tech community that brought the startup to Miami. “A charismatic” Kairos CEO Brian Brackeen met the co-founders by chance at a pitch event in Detroit and immediately began to pitch them on relocating to Miami. A subsequent 30-minute call with Brackeen turned into two hours; Brackeen made introductions; and soon, they were flying down for a tour by Brackeen and meetings with tech community leadors and entrepreneurs. The Voyhoy team relocated in January, believing Miami to be the ideal location for an international headquarters for its growing customer base in Latin America.
“I’m glad they chose Miami as their headquarters after TechStars. The entrepreneurs have a lot of passion, are hard workers and are good listeners,” said mentor Laura Maydon, managing director of Endeavor Miami. “Importantly, they are solving an important problem.”
Today, travelers can use Voyhoy to buy tickets from over 1,000 providers across transport modes for over 100,000 routes in Chile, Argentina, Peru, Brazil and Colombia, with other markets on the way. For transport operators, Voyhoy increases their ticket sales by modernizing their technology capabilities and diversifying their passenger base.
Voyhoy also helps some partners increase their ticket inventory by combining their existing trips with other providers to sell interlined tickets to new destinations both on Voyhoy.com and on their own sites.
“We realized that providing a simple tool to find the best tickets wasn’t enough,” Moskowitz said. “We developed virtual interlining technology that allows travelers to buy multiple travel legs in single transactional tickets. We call them smart tickets. (Bus + flight, train + ferry, etc.). Our smart tickets help travelers find new ways to get to their destinations, save money against overpriced direct options, and save time for inefficient overland journeys.”
Launched: September 2015
Management team: Jake Moskowitz, CEO; Roger Robinson, CTO; Ignacio Vial, COO; Mateus Rocha, marketing director; Juan Arredondo, project manager.
No. of employees: 16
Financing: $500,00 pre-seed from angel investors, Techstars and CORFO (Chilean government); undisclosed seed round from Fontinalis Partners, 1776, Outbound Ventures and Autonebula. Currently look to raise additional $500,000.
Recent milestones: Finalized partnership agreements and technical integrations to launch Voyhoy in four new markets. Recently relocated headquarters to Miami. After closing a round of funding, made strategic hires in Miami and in Chile. In June, won the eMerge Americas Startup Showcase, taking home $100,000 in prizes.
Biggest startup challenge: “Our biggest challenge is trying to accomplish too much too quickly and the opportunity cost that comes with being forced to prioritize one thing over another,” Moskowitz said.
Next step: Implementing marketing campaigns across all Voyhoy’s markets, releasing smart tickets for the routes with the largest price discrepancies or most limited trip options, and providing a more personalized and targeted customer experience. “We’re also developing new technologies, making new hires, and signing new strategic partners to diversify our product, add more tickets, and open up new revenue channels,” Moskowitz said. “We’re currently hiring a full-stack developer and a commercial director.”
Investor’s view: “Voyhoy has done a great job of quickly establishing numerous partnerships, which signals to us that its approach is validated by others in the market,” said investor and advisor Christopher T. Stallman, partner of Fontinalis. “Each market has its own nuances — both opportunities and challenges — and it’s important that they execute well in each country they operate within. As we’ve advised the company, this means leaning on in-country experts, whether they’re advisors or strategic partners, and growing deliberately and effectively versus quick but haphazardly.”
Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg
READ MORE STARTUP SPOTLIGHTS