During the worst times of the COVID-19 pandemic, very few people were able to travel. Meanwhile, 2021 and 2022 were predicted as the “revenge trip” years where people would do a lot more. Or at least plan more.
In the background was a website that allowed people to travel virtually, either for pure interest, or to plan their own trip. Heygo’s live tours are streamed live by tour guides in over 90 countries and counting. Think “Twitch, but to travel”.
Of course, many people liked the site and its usefulness during the pandemic, because Heygo has now raised a $20 million Series A funding round, led by Northzone. Lightspeed Venture Partners, Point 9 Capital, TQ Ventures and Ascension also participated.
Heygo is exploring a different kind of creative economy. Your guides can share the places and subjects they love on their own live channels with a global audience while earning money from tips. It managed to achieve a 300% growth in bookings in January compared to last year and recently reached the 2 million bookings mark, says the company.
Co-founder and CEO John Tertan told me: We’ve got it all, you know, someone walking around Machu Picchu, teaching cooking classes in Hanoi, renting planes and going past volcanoes. So it’s about broadcasting the real world and talking about what local individuals are passionate about or sharing stories about themselves or all these different places.”
He said viewers join for free, ask the individual streamer/guide questions, and then people give tips. The platform has a stake in this, but the guides keep most of the money on tip. Heygo will also now launch a dedicated in-house streaming app. This will likely set it apart from, say, the virtual ‘experiences’ of Airbnb or Amazon that have grown rapidly during the pandemic.
“Heygo is one of those exceptional cases where a company has created a service that you think should always exist,” said Michiel Kotting, Northzone partner and board member. “Its interactive, guided streams are Twitch’s equivalent of the hugely popular travel show and documentary genre, creating a new category of immersive travel around the world from home.”
Also in the round were a number of angels, including Guillaume Pousaz, founder of Checkout, Lawrence Leuschner, founder of Tier, Bastian Lehmann, founder of Postmates, Scott Chacon founder of Github (through SCNE Ventures), Ian Hogarth, founder of Songkick, Matt Robinson founder of GoCardless and Nested, Richard Mabey founder of Juro and others. Michiel Kotting, Paul Murphy and Kolja Hebenstreit joined Heygo’s board as a result.