Travel is back, at least according to experts who say travel bookings for over the Thanksgiving holiday are showing to be even higher than pre-pandemic levels.
Anyone who loves travel or is that friend who always plans the best vacations, Fora has a tool for you. The company was co-founded by onefinestay’s Evan Frank, Virtuoso agency owner Henley Vazquez and entrepreneur Jake Peters, to redefine what we think of the travel agency and enable people who want to sell travel as a career, or in their spare time, a way to do it.
Frank and Vazquez had known each other for five years when the idea for Fora came up.
“We always talked about doing something together, but this past March, we connected again,” Vazquez said. “I was in Costa Rica and talking about opportunities for women sitting on sidelines due to the pandemic and looking for interesting work. Content creators are circulating around the travel world, and we saw a big opportunity for technology to modernize the industry.”
Travel agencies are a $100 billion market in the U.S., but it is still largely one that works with fax machines and phone calls. Fora is one of the latest startups seeing venture capital attraction to push more of the travel industry into the digital age and tapping into the creator economy. Another is Thatch, which took in $3 million in August to enable travel creators to monetize their recommendations.
However, Fora has a unique approach compared to some of its competitors: It is actually teaching people to sell travel through training sessions, content authoring tools and negotiated rates at the world’s top hotels.
“A lot of companies sell content or expertise, but we saw a bigger opportunity to empower more people to sell travel,” Frank said. “The booking of travel without a system or knowledge is janky and hard. We are focused on tooling to help our advisors be successful themselves.”
Since its soft launch in August, Fora has already booked $2 million in travel, and today, the company announced $5 million in a seed round. It was led by Forerunner Ventures with participation from Heartcore Capital, Uncommon Capital and individual investors, including Katrina Lake, Gokul Rajaram, Ran Makavy and Ben Rubin.
The company decided to go after venture capital to help build out its technology more quickly. Fora plans to use the new investment to onboard new advisors, product development and go-to-market. Its advisor waitlist has grown to more than 2,000 people, and the company will also spend the time onboarding and training them over the next few months.
Meanwhile, Brian O’Malley, general partner at Forerunner Ventures, said that his firm was looking at the creator space and found that what will make Fora successful is having the advisor with a circle of friends and a passion for travel.
“In our eyes, that fits the entrepreneur next store versus the person on Instagram getting free stuff,” he added. “The cost of customer acquisition is skyrocketing, and Fora is coming in as a ‘Trojan horse’ by getting networks that already existed. It’s also a next-generation platform that is getting people back into the workforce.”