Funding a travel startup this week

A startup called Runway says it can keep travelers safe and healthy on the road.  Adobe / Teen

A startup called Runway says it can keep travelers safe and healthy on the road. Adobe / Teen

Everyone got sick along the way. Both business and leisure travelers know how hard it is to find a doctor in an unfamiliar city, and many of us know how to find ourselves in strange little doctor’s offices with pictures of famous patients on the wall (yes, this really happened), because our hotels had deals with said doctors, and about missing a chance to ride a venture capitalist’s Tesla Roadster when they were exotic (that too) because that same fever made us cancel.

Now a startup from Miami called WFP says it can make it all better

The brainchild of 36-year-old former pharmaceutical executive Josh Rome, Runway intends to be the Roman or Hims of travel medicine, doing for travel diarrhea, motion sickness and malaria what earlier startups did for erectile dysfunction and hair restoration. Idea: Allow travelers to arrange online consultations on common issues before setting out, and receive pre-travel medication delivery so travelers can be prepared.

The company just raised $1.5 million in venture capital from investors led by Pareto Holdings, an incubator led by Shutterstock founder John Oringer.

The travel health market is a $12 billion-a-year industry now served by brick-and-mortar chains, the largest of which is Passport Health, as well as smaller, local doctors’ offices, Rome said. According to various estimates, he said, half of those who come to developing countries develop a disease that Podium is ready to treat. “Travel illness is more common than you might think,” he said.

And he would have known: The idea for Runway crystallized when Rowe himself fell ill in Mexico City during the Covid pandemic. He said he had to deal with language problems and use drugs that weren’t made in a FDA-approved facility. “I will never again travel without an antibiotic for roadside diarrhea,” he said.

Runway’s advantage over companies like Roman and Hims is that it will be able to sell through tour operators and other partners, Rowe said, spending less than spending on consumer-facing marketing that supports familiar names. The breakthrough will happen, he said, if it happens when Rowe can convince the big online travel agencies to work with him.

“My guiding light for the next 12 months is building our network,” he said. “The goal is to get to OTA. If we could put our link next to the button to buy travel insurance, that would be nice.”

Checking attractions

Imagine that you are a hotel manager trying to solve three interrelated problems after a pandemic (or during a prolonged epidemic): guests do not like long check-in and taxi price spikes, the hotel needs to increase revenue through additional sales of guests in the local market. rides and room upgrades, and management doesn’t have the staff to deal with either of the first two.


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