Travel startup Uplift has raised $123 million in a Series C funding round, according to a report in TechCrunch. The company’s CEO, Brian Barth, previously founded travel startup SideStep, but he sold that to Kayak for $200 million.
The company hasn’t said much publicly about its business until recently.
“We’ve been exceedingly low-profile, because it’s a really good idea and we wanted to keep it a secret,” Uplift President Robert Soderbery said. “But now we’re at a size and scale where we’re ready to raise our visibility.”
Also, he said, it’s hard to “keep a $123 million Series C financing round a secret.”
Uplift works like this: it partners with vacation sites for companies like Southwest, American Airlines, United Airlines, Allegiant and Kayak, and offers travel finance. It does this by partnering with banks to let people pay for trips in monthly installments.
For example, Soderbery brought up the idea of a family thinking about going to Disneyland, at a total cost of about $2,000. Uplift could potentially get them on a finance plan of somewhere around $189 a month.
“We make it really easy for consumers to understand,” he said. “It’s a convenient way to book travel, it reduces the upfront cost and encourages them to book more often, which in turn drives conversion for our travel partners. It’s really a win-win.”
Soderbery said there’s a reason his company only handles travel.
“Planning and purchasing travel is really different from buying a mattress or a gym membership,” he said. “It’s a different kind of product and different technology.”
He doesn’t plan to expand the company, he said, or open his marketplace, instead preferring to rely on partners.
“Travel companies want to protect their customers and they don’t want us to be sourcing or acquiring their consumers,” he said. “We stand behind our partners … We don’t bring [customers] to our site to try to create a marketplace, we’re not trying to build a consumer platform, we’re building a platform for travel partners.”