Dublin travel-tech start-up Rove raises €450,000 in seed funding

2 Jul 2020

Brian Kearney, CEO of Rove. Image: Rove

Rove has raised €450,000 in seed funding to take advantage of the growing adventure-based tourism market when Covid-19 travel restrictions are lifted.

Rove, a Dublin-based travel-tech start-up, has announced that it closed €450,000 in early-stage seed investment, at a time when the future of the travel and tourism sectors remains uncertain.

Rove said that the seed round, which was led by Zoosh Ventures and Enterprise Ireland, will position the start-up to take advantage of a growing market segment following the lifting of Covid-19 travel restrictions.

The start-up was founded in 2019 by Brian Kearney, a former head of digital at Fitbit, with the goal of making activities and experience-based travel more accessible to holidaymakers.

Demand for adventure tourism

Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, Rove saw a growing demand for adventure and activity-based travel. According to Allied Market Research, the global adventure tourism market was worth €583bn in 2018 and is expected to grow to $1,626bn by 2026.

In Ireland, Rove said the success of the Wild Atlantic Way in positioning the region as an adventure travel destination and investing in experiential product development, for example, has “captured a valuable new tourist segment”.

Kearney, who is CEO of Rove, said that beachside holidays and sight-seeing city breaks are “losing appeal” with younger travellers who are seeking out more immersive travel experiences.

“There are significant shifts in what consumers want out of a holiday today,” he added. “Tourists want to go beyond gazing out of a tourist bus and actually spend time exploring a destination. Activities such as hiking, biking, rafting and diving while on holiday have all exploded in popularity in recent years.”

Rove’s technology

Rove’s goal is to digitise the experience segment with a cloud-based booking platform. Kearney said that bookings for activities still largely happen in person, very close to the intended time of departure, which presents challenges for companies looking to scale in this market.

“Last minute, in-destination bookings are key to success in this sector,” Kearney said. “We are developing digital solutions that offer live availability, enabling travellers to make an instant booking directly from their phone.”

The start-up aims to act as a distribution partner for online travel agencies, airlines and hotels, providing ancillary revenue to businesses. It has been recognised as a high-potential start-up (HPSU) by Enterprise Ireland.

Niall McEvoy, Enterprise Ireland HPSU ICT manager, said: “Rove is a progressive early-stage travel-tech company focused on the growing and underserved adventure tourism sector.

“The travel-tech sector has been deeply impacted by the current crisis, but it is important for Enterprise Ireland that we continue to support innovation in the sector to help early stage companies position for recovery in this key vertical.

“We are delighted to support the company in developing the technology and building their team as they start to scale the business globally.”

Kelly Earley was a journalist with Silicon Republic