Lincoln startup aims to reduce the troubles with travel

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Posted: Wednesday, September 25, 2013 12:00 am

A Lincoln startup wants to make planning that bachelorette party, family reunion or little league tournament a little easier.

Launched last year, the web-based tool allows users to start a trip; invite people via Facebook, Google+ or email; find a hotel; pick dates; and track expenses. At the end of the trip, Travefy nets the expenses due, sends a bill and collects money from those who owe and pays it out evenly to those who are owed.

The startup closed a $320,000 round of funding led by the Nebraska Angels, allowing it to hire its first two full-time employees, a web developer and a designer, and to focus on marketing efforts, Travefy co-founder David Chait said.

Columbia University's venture capital fund, Company X, a subsidiary of student housing company Campus Evolution, Nelnet and Nebraska Global made up the institutional side of the fundraising round. Angel investors included Jim and Karen Linder, members of the Nebraska Angels. Chait declined to disclose the amount each investor contributed.

Chait said Travefy's further expansion will rely on how many users it recruits over the next year, but it expects to again double its staff within a year.

The company also launched the beta version of its expense management tool last week, which allows trip participants to track and settle group expenses. It plans to launch an expense tracking mobile app for Apple and Android devices next month with the ability to photo capture receipts.

“Travefy solves problems for both business and individual travelers. Business people can coordinate travel to save time and cost, and leisure travelers can both plan travel and use the expense management tool to maintain their friendship,” said Jim and Karen Linder of Linseed Capital in a prepared statement.

The funding follows a prototyping grant — $50,000 from the Nebraska Innovation Fund, matched at $45,000 by Linseed Capital — the company raised earlier this year.

Chait recently graduated from Columbia University with a master's in business administration. Originally from New Jersey, he partnered with former Hudl developer and Nebraska native Chris Davis and moved to Lincoln to launch the company from the Lincoln Haymarket.

“If we were going to run the same company in New York, it would be twice the cost,” Chait said. “We could have really ended up anywhere, but we were very impressed with the way entrpreneurship is exploding in Omaha and Lincoln.

“For us it's the most thrilling thing in the world to be able to build a company in Lincoln, where we can pay a very good wage, give great health care options, be a pillar of the community and do it at such a reasonable cost basis.”

Many startups complain of trouble finding needed employees in the Midwest, but Chait said Travefy hasn't had that problem. “We've actually found there's a fantastic talent pool in the region. So we've actually been eager to come here and double down.”

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