Travel discovery platform Layla is today announcing a €3M investment from an esteemed group of travel leaders, including the co-founders of Booking.com (Andy Phillips) and Skyscanner (Barry Smith), and entertainment star and entrepreneur Paris Hilton. The funding round was led by Firstminute Capital (set up by Brent Hoberman, co-founder of travel industry titan lastminute.com) and M13.
Layla was created by Jeremy Jauncey, founder of Beautiful Destinations – a leading travel media brand with over 50M followers on social media – and Saad Saeed, co-founder of Europe’s fastest-ever unicorn, grocery delivery service Flink, which grew to 10,000 employees across four countries in its first year alone.
Layla harnesses inspirational, short-form travel video and AI-powered large language models to help users discover where to go, where to stay and what to do when they travel. By applying proprietary technology, Layla makes it simple and easy to discover your next travel destination and then plan and book trips based on stunning video content and personalised itineraries.
Layla’s newly launched product suite includes an Instagram Travel Planner (activated by direct messaging @justasklayla) and the free-to-use Layla app which allows users to discover places to go, book their travel and accommodation, and learn about destinations, all in one place.
Reimagining Travel Discovery
Social media and short-form videos are now dominant sources of travel discovery. The American Express 2023 Global Travel Trends Report found that 75% of people had been inspired by social media when deciding to travel to a specific destination and as much as 40% of younger consumers turn to Instagram or TikTok instead of Google search or maps.
Despite this, turning social media inspiration into a fully planned trip is a laborious and time-consuming process that requires juggling multiple platforms and websites, and takes more than 10 hours over a typical period of two-to-three weeks.
Layla bridges this gap by connecting social travel inspiration with all elements of the booking process. With the help of large language models, Layla’s Instagram messaging platform and app not only present users with highly relevant destination recommendations but also paint a vivid picture of what users can expect through beautiful, inspirational, short vertical video. The Layla app answers any queries the user has from flight prices, to cultural insights to weather specifics.
Travel Track Record – Industry Heavyweights Betting Big on AI
Layla is the next travel business from Jeremy Jauncey, who founded Beautiful Destinations in 2012. In the ensuing 10 years, Beautiful Destinations was voted a Fast Company Most Innovative Company and quickly became the market leader in travel social media, building a community of over 50 million followers, 1,500 creators and millions of pieces of high-quality travel content. Layla is turbo-charged by this content and bank of data.
Layla Co-founder Saad Saeed shared the view that billions of dollars of travel transactions were originating in the social ecosystem but never being capitalised on. Saeed was previously co-founder and chief technology officer at Europe’s fastest-ever unicorn (businesses valued at over $1B) German grocery delivery service Flink. Having scaled that company to over 10,000 employees, his expertise in AI, technology, and building fast-growth scaleups neatly complements Jauncey’s travel and social media expertise. Product is led by Sardar Bali, who ran an independent product firm working with various Fortune 500 companies and European Unicorns.
Firstminute Capital’s backing of Layla sees Co-Founder and Executive Chair Brent Hoberman, who founded lastminute.com in 1998, throw his weight behind the next generation travel company. In addition, involvement from Booking.com co-founder Andy Phillips, Skyscanner Co-founder Barry Smith and travel mogul Paris Hilton demonstrates the travel industry’s excitement for Layla. Backing from U.S.-based venture capital firm M13 moreover indicates the company’s vast and global ambitions.
“Travel discovery has been broken for decades,” says Jauncey. “People today get inspired by short-form videos on social media first and foremost, but there is no way to turn this inspiration into a trip. We want to help users discover the perfect places by bridging the gap between social media, planning and booking.”
“With a few simple swipes of your finger, you can ask Layla to find Maldives-like beaches in a destination that is more affordable and is not inundated with tourists. From a few simple Instagram DM exchanges, Layla will suggest the best flights, accommodation and activities in line with your budget and interests, alongside accompanying video content. Visual search is the future of travel for younger consumers. Our product gives users exactly what they want, in a medium they like to consume and on platforms where they spend most of their time.” adds Saad Saaed.
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