SideTour Gets $1.5M Round

SideTour, which just emerged from stealth mode after being founded this summer, has raised $1.5 million from VCs including Foundry Group and RRE Ventures. Founders include Vipin Goyal, CEO, Aaron Foss, Minesh Mistry and Mark Webster. Unlike most daily deal sites, SideTour seeks to provide its client base with off-the-beaten-path, more unique retail and dining experiences. SideTour is part of the TechStars incubator program.

COMPANY:

Description
SideTour is a marketplace where people can host and discover unique, authentic experiences.

Launch
SideTour was founded in July 2011. We launched the first version of our site eight weeks ago. We’re starting in NYC but our plan is to build a global marketplace for local experiences in cities around the world.

A few of our most popular experiences so far:
• Get a personal preview and tasting of America’s next great restaurant (http://bit.ly/oVVgze)
• Lunch with a banker-turned-monk at an East Village monastery (http://bit.ly/pZx5DU)
• Learn traditional pasta making in La Cucina di Caterina (http://bit.ly/oVZLAC)
• Cruise NY harbor on a private sailboat (http://bit.ly/rjsV52)

Market Trends
In today’s market, more and more people are moving from traditional full-time jobs to freelancing based on their expertise and interests. SideTour builds on this trend by offering a platform for professionals and other individuals to monetize their expertise. In the same way that platforms such as Etsy enable artisans to build a digital storefront and market their goods, SideTour enables experts (whether they’re chefs, monks, musicians or Olympic lugers) to share their abilities and make money while doing so.

Host Benefits
• SideTour enables hosts to monetize their expertise by creating and offering unique experiences inspired by their personal passions and talents
• The SideTour platform makes it easy for hosts to manage their scheduling, bookings and communication, market their experiences/services, and process payments and refunds all on the platform

User Benefits
• SideTour allows users to discover and book authentic experiences that haven’t been offered anywhere else
• SideTour allows users to make real-world connections with like-minded people because every SideTour experience is designed as a small group event around a shared interest

Differentiation
• SideTour is built as an appointment-based platform (versus a listing service) where every experience is designed as a small group event with a specific date, time and number of spots; as a result, SideTour enables participants to meet interesting new people while engaging in a fun, memorable experience
• SideTour is focused on the uniqueness of each experience and curates the platform to ensure that every experience meets an extremely high quality threshold
• SideTour is a peer-to-peer platform where every experience is hosted by a uniquely qualified individual
• SideTour is creating new inventory by bringing new experience providers into the market; as a result, we’re tapping into a new independent expert economy

Revenue Model
Hosts set the prices of their experiences, and SideTour takes a 20% fee on completed transactions (we’re offering a reduced fee of 15% during our initial beta period).

Founders
• Vipin Goyal, CEO (prior experience: Joost, MTV Networks, McKinsey & Company, HBS)
• Aaron Foss, Dev (founded a software consulting firm called Alegean, R.I.T.)
• Minesh Mistry, Operations (General Atlantic, Morgan Stanley, HBS)
• Mark Webster, Design and Product (founded a design consulting firm called Kickstart Concepts, Joost, NBA, F.I.T.)

Funding
SideTour is part of the TechStars NYC startup accelerator program and has raised $1.5 million of seed capital led by Foundry Group and RRE Ventures.