Imagine landing in a new city and trying to navigate from the airport to the city without getting cheated by a taxi driver, or finding all the spots you need or want to visit using cabs, buses, trams, maps, brochures etc. Welcome Pickups, an Athens headquartered startup, aims to organize and improve the whole experience of travelers within a certain destination – from the airport transfer to in-city or in-area trips and activities.
The startup has already launched operations in over 30 destinations in Western Europe, Greece and Asia, and has just raised €3.3M to further expand within the Central European Region and the Middle East.
The Greek fund VentureFriends leads the current round, and other VCs from the UK, Poland, and Dubai are also participating. Together with the latest round, the investments in the company total €6.4M. The fresh capital will be used for the further growth of the company and the exploration of new niches beside the airport pickups.
One Stop Shop for The City Traveler
“We want to do more than airport pickups and to meet more needs – to become a one-stop shop for the traveler and connect to the destinations suppliers – transfers, physical products like Sim-cards, museum tickets, etc.,” explains CEO Alexandros Trimis. Currently, the best-developed service is the airport pickup that could be booked online through the website or a mobile app. The company then sends to its customers all the needed information regarding the local driver that will pick them up. After the transfer, the customers could stay in touch with their Welcomer and book other services, or just ask for local tips.
According to Trimis, Uber is not a competitor for the Greek startup. “Most of the companies offer transportation from A to B. We are now trying to leverage all the data we receive and meet all the needs a traveler might have,” he explains.
Welcome Pickups’ services are currently available in 32 locations where Barcelona, Rome, Athens, and Budapest are the hottest destinations. Welcome plans to launch in Dubrovnik, Bucharest, Istanbul, and Beirut soon. With the new investment round the company plans to expand to another 30 destinations and reach 1M users by the end of the year. According to Trimis, the company is operating within an untapped billion dollar vertical.
The startup has not launched in the US, and will most probably not do that soon. According to Trimis, the model makes more sense in Europe or other destinations where English, information, and trust are issues. “We don’t have the same value proposition in New York city,” Trimis explains.
USP: Standardization, a local vibe, and more services
The startup has a B2B2C model: it sells its services to end customers either directly online, or through its network of partners – mostly hotels, Airbnb hosts. The company charges a commission per every transaction through the platform. The partners also receive a piece of the commission. “Right now we work a lot with hotels, but we want to explore other verticals like airlines, cruises, and also business travelers,” Trimis says. Welcome Pickups’s model includes also services for corporations whose employees often go on business trips and even for conference organizers.
On the other end of the rope are the drivers – Welcome Pickups is a platform that promotes them and allows them to have a clear schedule and earn additionally. The criteria to work with a driver is first of all the fluent English and the professional driving license. “We also try to work with as we call them city ambassadors – people who love their city and want to share the best it has to offer,” he adds.
Back from the Valley
Alexandros Trimis came back to Athens after he studied at Stanford, and worked for companies like SurveyMonkey and UpWork in Silicon Valley. “What I like about Greece is the fact that we are not talking about KPIs and funding rounds all the time. I wanted to create a safe environment for like-minded people and me”, Trimis laughs.
In 2013, he started Dopios, a company, which he pivoted to Welcome Pickups two years later. He currently runs the venture together with his co-founder Savva Georgius and manages an international team of over 60 people across destinations. As the company grows, Welcome Pickups is also looking to strengthen its management with experienced C-level professionals who would help them throughout the scaling process.