Travel app purchase one of biggest acquisitions yet of a Colombian tech company

Posted on Dec 5 2013 - 2:13pm by Editor
We Hostels team featuring (left to right): Alex Torrenegra, Diego Saez-Gil, and Chris Piazza, the company's three co-founders (Photo: We Hostels)

A Colombian app company that helps backpackers find a place to stay was recently acquired by the world’s largest youth travel agency, the CEO revealed to Colombia Reports.

WeHostels, which splits its operations and nine employees between New York City and the Colombian capital of Bogota, was bought for an undisclosed amount in mid November by Boston-based Student Universe, said WeHostels CEO and now Student Universe Vice-President Diego Saez-Gil.

The app targets young travelers on the road in Latin America, Europe and Asia, allowing users to search and reserve hostels on their mobile devices.

“In three swipes of your phone, you can book a night’s accomodation,” explained Saez-Gil, who indicated that though young people are more likely to use mobile devices and stay in hostels, high-level mobile apps haven’t been developed facilitating those transactions via smartphone.

At the behest of his new parent company, Saez-Gil declined to offer specifics on the acquisition. The Argentine entrepreneur did say that investors were “very pleased” with the financial outcome of the sale, noting that acquisitions are rare in Colombia.

Acquisitions of tech companies very rare in Colombia

“There’s really only one other example, Pagos online [acquired by a South African firm], of a Colombian company being acquired by a big tech company,” he said. “One of the problems Colombia has is that investors don’t want to invest because there aren’t that many companies being acquired or big companies here that can acquire other companies.”

Even prior to its acquisition, said Saez-Gil, WeHostels had raised $1.2 million as of March of 2012 from investment firms in Argentina, New York, France, Spain and Germany, with the help of a program from the Endeavor non-profit group.

Hecho en Colombia (Made in Colombia)

Founded in early 2011, WeHostels was the brainchild of Saez-Gil and Alex Torrenegra, a native Colombian and prolific start-up founder and investor in the tech sector.

“We met up in New York, but came to Colombia. Number one, we had connections in the tech scene there, but we also know there is a really good pool of talent when it comes to developers. We built a product in Colombia that had international appeal.”

MORE: Colombia needs to find alternative to Silicon Valley model: Tech entrepreneur

According to Saez-Gil, all of WeHostels previous employees have since been incorporated into Student Universe, which, as the world’s largest travel agency, partners with some 60 airlines to serve an estimated 8 million students per year.

Sources

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