Cathay Innovation
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Cathay Innovation

Behind the Term Sheet: How Peek is Leading Experiences’ Digital Transformation Moment as Travel Makes its 2022 Comeback

By: Simon Wu & Denis Barrier

We initially invested in travel and experiences platform Peek.com in 2018. Since then, we’ve seen the company rise to hit major milestones, reaching $1B in bookings in 2020, to not only weather the pandemic in the hard-hit travel industry, but to evolve its model to come out stronger. And most recently, Peek announced its $80M Series Cattracting the likes of WestCap, founded by former Airbnb CFO Laurence A. Tosi, Goldman Sachs Growth, 3L Capital, founded by former Demand Media CEO Shawn Colo, and earlier investors like us at Cathay Innovation.

COVID-19 led to increased digitization across the board — from travel to restaurants — with more merchants and businesses of all sizes moving online and accepting digital payments. However, there are parts of the industry that have yet to make the leap to digital, with experiences very much being one of them.

But now — after Thanksgiving week flights were up 78% over last year (and 3.2% from pre-pandemic levels) — we believe that Peek has the opportunity to power the 2022 travel comeback and prompt the experiences space to finally have its digital transformation moment. Here’s why:

“Experiences” — on the brink of its digital transformation moment.

Historically, the travel and experiences industry has been slower than others to innovate, leading to operational inefficiencies and missed opportunities. But thanks to advances in technology and the pandemic serving as a wakeup call for many tech companies around how, where and by whom their data gets accessed — this dynamic is now shifting.

Peek is leading the digital shift by democratizing access to best-in-class technology through its easy-to-deploy, scalable platform. It combines a popular marketplace for consumers to book fun things to do (e.g., wine tours, water sports, skydiving, art classes, etc.) with a powerful business software that helps operators build direct relationships with customers and simplify operations. Today, the company provides thousands of merchants and operators (e.g. Museum of Ice Cream, Color Factory, Pennekamp State Park) with online booking, point-of-sale, and hundreds of automation tools such as inventory management, dynamic pricing, waivers, and marketing analytics. This has led to businesses using the platform seeing a 30% increase in revenue.

The company was also hugely instrumental in helping its merchants survive the pandemic-fueled downturn as all travel activities came to a halt. It did this by providing contactless technologies (in preparation for safer re-openings) and helping businesses access PPP loans while pivoting focus to local or online experiences rather than tourism. This allowed Peek to rebound stronger than ever — with nearly $2B in bookings, serving 35M customers and successfully moving up market from its initial focus on SMBs to now working with enterprises.

Peek.com

The future of experiences — near or far, physical, or virtual, with embedded services.

Travel restrictions or not — with so much pent-up demand, consumers are looking for more experiences fit for the post-COVID era. This now includes getting out and staying local as well as getting online to experience from a distance. By building a marketplace for the future of experiences discovery, Peek is attracting more travel, leisure and hospitality businesses looking to integrate its proprietary inventory into their offerings. It also capitalized on the shift to remote work by helping businesses offer online experiences or “virtual team-building activities for distributed workforces at companies like Spotify, McKinsey, and Nike.”

In addition, Peek will embed more services as they continue processing billions in payments volume and meeting the needs of its operators and customers.

Parting Thoughts — making travel & experiences more digital, efficient, and resilient.

Airlines, hotels, and many others that fall under the travel and tourism industries have largely stagnated or seen free-fall decline over the last 1.5 years. We’re beyond impressed with co-founders Ruzwana Bashir and Oskar Bruening who led Peek to not only survive — but enable so many others to thrive and adapt to the post-COVID age.

Peek.com can certainly help fuel the return of travel in 2022, but its larger potential lies in uplifting the entire experiences sector to become more digital, efficient, and resilient for the years to come. We’re looking forward to the next leg of growth — but in the meantime, a big congrats to Ruzwana, Oskar and the entire team on these admirable accomplishments thus far.

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Simon Wu

Simon Wu

Partner @ Cathay Innovation VC. Partnering with the next generation of entrepreneurs focused on software, consumer, fintech and digital healthcare