A lot has changed in the travel industry over the last decade or so. Improvements in technology have meant that the way we find and book our transfers abroad is now much easier – and there is a host of information online telling us how to get from A to B in places we’ve never visited before. However, this can sometimes be a problem in itself. With so much information available at our finger tips, knowing which sources to trust, and how to go about booking those all important trains or buses – especially while in foreign countries – can be overwhelming, confusing and stressful. One wrong click and you could be wasting money online if you book the wrong thing.
But one man came up with an idea that aims to solve this. Called GoEuro, the solution is a platform where people can search for transportation, be it trains, planes or buses, across any European country, all in one place. But before we go any further, we’ll let the man himself, GoEuro’s CEO, Naren Shaam, tell you all about his company and why it’s a vital tool for budding travellers.
So tell us, what exactly is GoEuro?
GoEuro is a travel platform that allows people to compare and book journeys by train, bus and flight anywhere in Europe with one simple search on mobile, app or desktop. We partner with over 500 European transport providers and our aim is to revolutionise the travel planning experience, ultimately by helping people plan travel between cities, towns and villages (not just airports), to find the most relevant options for their journey, and eliminating the need to visit multiple websites.
What makes it distinct to any other companies?
Our unique selling point is that we offer travel comparison and booking capabilities for train, bus and air travel around Europe, whereas many travel sites only cover one mode of transport. When creating GoEuro, my aim was to make booking intercity and cross-border transport simple and easy. Our site and app shows users all three modes of transport available for their chosen route and compares not only price, but travel time as well. Today we offer travel solutions for 13 destinations in Europe (and, if you take flights into account, our reach is global) and I hope to have the entire continent covered soon.
What’s your personal background?
I studied engineering in India before I moved to the US to work in the auto-industry as a global product manager. In 2010 I completed my MBA at Harvard then spent four months backpacking around Europe. It was during this time I came up with the idea for GoEuro, but I returned to the US to work on Wall Street. I noticed after a couple of years that no one has developed a transportation search and booking site to take advantage of Europe’s excelling networks, so I moved to Berlin in 2012 to set up GoEuro. I have not looked back since.
What inspired you to start the company?
In summer 2010, I travelled around 14 countries in Europe in just four months. It was a fantastic experience, but I noticed a gap in the market to make booking transport easy for international visitors. In each destination there can be four or five coach and train providers, and in order to compare travel time and cost of tickets I had to look at each company’s own websites. I thought there must be a simple alternative to this and that surely someone was already developing a platform to make it easy to search and book tickets across trains, buses and air travel in Europe. But no one was. So in March 2012 I quit my job, moved to Berlin and set up GoEuro.
What is the story of the company from launch until now? How big is the company now?
We are headquartered in Berlin, and now have over 200 employees from more than 40 different countries. I started in 2012 armed with an idea and a rough sketch (which I still have) of how I wanted GoEuro’s site to look. I had a sample site built by a local programmer and pitched my idea to Deutsche Bahn in Germany and a few other providers in the UK. The business grew from there.
To date, we have received multiple investments from Battery Ventures, New Enterprise Associates, Goldman Sachs, Atomico, Silver Lake Kraftwerk, and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, totalling US$146 million. We now offer travel search and booking in 13 European destinations: the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Belgium, Netherlands, Austria, Poland, the Czech Republic and, most recently, Sweden.
We also recently announced our first partnership with Qunar in China to help Chinese visitors search and book rail tickets to thousands of European destinations.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?
As any business we have many tough moments and at each stage of growth the scale of those problems changes. If I have to pick one, it’s waking in the night when we first set up, worrying we’d be able to pay everyone. Once we got scale and financing sorted, new and different challenges occur.
What would you say is your biggest milestone?
Seeing the business grow from an idea with one person to a full company, and the personal growth I have experienced along the way has been really exciting. Looking ahead of what we can build and what more I can learn is inspiring.
What’s your business model?
We have revenue-sharing agreements with our travel partners for ticket sales. Our goal is to provide consumers the best travel search experience, as well as the lowest fares without any additional fees.
What’s your plan for growth?
Our ultimate objective is to connect every single location on the map with a click of a button. So far we’ve integrated more than five million routes across Europe, 13 countries, 500 partners and we sell tickets to millions of customers from more than one hundred countries.
Will you be looking for more funding?
We are always open to discussions about funding. Our last round was in November 2016, which has enabled to really boost the business and continue growing our reach.