Travel & tourism

Exclusive: Sherpa Raises $8.5M To Make Booking International Travel Easier

Travel tech company Sherpa has raised $8.5 million in funding led by Narrative Fund and True Ventures, the company said Friday. 

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The idea behind Toronto-based Sherpa is that “the best border crossing experience is no border crossing experience,” according to CEO Max Tremaine. The company wants to make international travel as easy as domestic travel, and its technology allows travel companies to build travel requirements, such as visa applications, into their products.

Anyone who’s traveled internationally and has needed a visa knows how much of a tedious process it can be. And the COVID-19 pandemic has only made the situation worse, as international travel restrictions, mandatory quarantines and other requirements are frequently changing. 

“During the COVID period, this is a problem that’s always been big for the travel industry but it’s never been bigger,” Tremaine said in an interview.

While other travel companies have struggled in the past year because of the pandemic, Sherpa’s been extremely busy because of demand for the product, Tremaine said. It added partners including American Airlines, Expedia, TripActions and Icelandair.

Before the pandemic, Sherpa was primarily used post-booking and would process a few hundred thousand API requests per month. Now it’s processing more than a billion API requests per month. 

“Since we’re a tech company, we can build this stuff in and make it completely seamless,” Tremaine said. “We track millions of data points and make it so it’s easier for travelers.”

The idea of Sherpa was already compelling pre-COVID, before all the talk of vaccine passports and other health documents to travel came about, according to Jamie Wong, a partner at Narrative Fund. Anyone who travels or works in the travel space knows Sherpa’s product is overdue, she said.

“There’s just a massive opportunity here,” Wong said in an interview. “And this past year, it’s an entirely new business layer and opportunity on top of what was already existing so it just multiplies the opportunity.”

With the new funding, the company plans to add travel documents as an ancillary product, integrate deeper with the companies it works with, and expand internationally. Sherpa’s mostly been working with American companies, but use in Europe has increased significantly, and it’s beginning to work more within Asia and the Middle East, Tremaine said. 

The company’s workforce has grown from 16 employees in December to 26 at the end of April. It hopes to have more than 50 employees by the end of the year.

The round brings Sherpa’s total funding to roughly $9 million, according to Tremaine. Other investors in the company include Relay Ventures, TSVC, Globalive Capital, N49P, Plug and Play Ventures, Golden Ventures, Busbud CEO LP Maurice, and Expedia.ca founder Stuart MacDonald.

Illustration: Dom Guzman

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