Elude's Travel App Targets Price-Conscious Millennials and Gen Z Travelers

Bernard Mendez
Bernard Mendez is an editorial intern at dot.LA. He attends UCLA, where he is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in applied mathematics. Mendez was previously an editor at the Daily Bruin, the student newspaper at UCLA.
An avid traveler, Alex Simon noticed that many booking services focus too much on the transaction and don't focus on the way individual users like to travel.

"Everybody travels differently," he said. "(With) Amazon, you're able to see the different products that you would like versus someone else. But when it comes to travel, it's fairly cookie cutter."

That was the inspiration behind Elude. Simon, Elude's CEO, co-founded the company and built its IOS app with a set of AI and Tinder-like features meant to create a personalized travel booking experience for price-conscious millennials and Gen Z.

The Los Angeles-based company announced Thursday the launch of the app which lets users find trips and book hotels and flights, alongside a $2.1 million round of seed funding led by Mucker Capital and Unicorn Ventures.

The app will launch during a period of upheaval for the travel industry. The U.S. travel industry—which lost $500 billion in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic— while expected to make gains in 2021, is not expected to return to pre-pandemic levels until 2024 according to the U.S. Travel Association.

Continuing travel restrictions due to the surge of the COVID-19 delta variant are also adding a layer of uncertainty for travel.

But even so, Elude is optimistic that it will still find success in part because its target demographic — millennials and younger — are more willing to travel during the pandemic.

"The first in line at the airports is definitely our generation that is looking to get away," said Simon. "And so I think that that will help our cases as well as we enter the market."

Elude is hoping to bring focus on personalization to the travel-tech industry with features that lets the app figure out the types of trips individual users like.

"If you love long flights and you love beaches, showcasing let's say Thailand makes the most sense," Simon said.

The company's app touts itself as one of the first travel apps oriented around price. Users first enter their budget and see the types of trips they can afford, instead of having to enter a destination and see yourself priced out.

"Within a couple of clicks on the app, you know exactly what you can afford to get to and see some really dope options," said Frankie Scerbo, the co-founder and chief marketing officer. "Okay, I can get to Miami for $400. But wait, I can go to Barcelona for the same price."

As of now, the app only offers booking through hotels, though the company is hoping to include Airbnb-like alternative housing listings in the future.

Elude will also enter a crowded market of travel apps that includes apps like Expedia and Priceline. But it is hedging its bets on the personalization feature will pay off in the long run. Scerbo said he wants Elude to capitalize on people's desire to leave their homes.

"People are really starved for travel," he said. "They want to get out and experience the world again — we've all been in the same walls for over a year."


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Genies Wants To Help Creators Build ‘Avatar Ecosystems’

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Genies Wants To Help Creators Build ‘Avatar Ecosystems’

When avatar startup Genies raised $150 million in April, the company released an unusual message to the public: “Farewell.”

The Marina del Rey-based unicorn, which makes cartoon-like avatars for celebrities and aims to “build an avatar for every single person on Earth,” didn’t go under. Rather, Genies announced it would stay quiet for a while to focus on building avatar-creation products.

Genies representatives told dot.LA that the firm is now seeking more creators to try its creation tools for 3D avatars, digital fashion items and virtual experiences. On Thursday, the startup launched a three-week program called DIY Collective, which will mentor and financially support up-and-coming creatives.

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Here's What To Expect At LA Tech Week

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Here's What To Expect At LA Tech Week

LA Tech Week—a weeklong showcase of the region’s growing startup ecosystem—is coming this August.

The seven-day series of events, from Aug. 15 through Aug. 21, is a chance for the Los Angeles startup community to network, share insights and pitch themselves to investors. It comes a year after hundreds of people gathered for a similar event that allowed the L.A. tech community—often in the shadow of Silicon Valley—to flex its muscles.

From fireside chats with prominent founders to a panel on aerospace, here are some highlights from the roughly 30 events happening during LA Tech Week, including one hosted by dot.LA.

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PCH Driven: Director Jason Wise Talks Wine, Documentaries, and His New Indie Streaming Service SOMMTV

Jamie Williams
­Jamie Williams is the host of the “PCH Driven” podcast, a show about Southern California entrepreneurs, innovators and its driven leaders on their road to success. The series celebrates and reveals the wonders of the human spirit and explores the motivations behind what drives us.
Jason Wise holding wine glass
Image courtesy of Jason Wise

Jason Wise may still consider himself a little kid, but the 33-year-old filmmaker is building an IMDB page that rivals colleagues twice his age.

As the director behind SOMM, SOMM2, SOMM3, and the upcoming SOMM4, Wise has made a career producing award-winning documentary films that peer deep into the wine industry in Southern California and around the world.

On this episode of the PCH Driven podcast, he talks about life growing up in Cleveland as a horrible student, filmmaking, Los Angeles and his latest entrepreneurial endeavor: A streaming service called SOMMTV that features–what else?–documentaries about wine.

The conversation covers some serious ground, but the themes of wine and film work to anchor the discussion, and Wise dispenses bits of sage filmmaking advice.

“With a documentary you can just start filming right now,” he says. “That’s how SOMM came about. I got tossed into that world during the frustration of trying to make a different film, and I just started filming it, because no one could stop me because I was paying for it myself. That’s the thing with docs,” or “The good thing about SOMM is that you can explain it in one sentence: ‘The hardest test in the world is about wine, and you’ve never heard about it.’”

…Or at least maybe you hadn’t before he made his first film. Now with three SOMM documentaries under his belt, Wise is nearing completion of “SOMM4: Cup of Salvation,” which examines the history of wine’s relationship with religion. Wise says it’s “a wild film,” that spans multiple countries, the Vatican and even an active warzone. As he puts it, the idea is to show that “wine is about every subject,” rather than “every subject is about wine.”

For Wise, the transition to launching his own streaming service came out of his frustration with existing platforms holding too much power over the value of the content he produces.

“Do we want Netflix to tell us what our projects are worth or do we want the audience to do that?” he asks.

But unlike giants in the space, SOMMTV has adopted a gradual approach of just adding small bits of content as they develop. Without the need to license 500 or 1,000 hours of programming, Wise has been able to basically bootstrap SOMMTV and provide short form content and other more experimental offerings that typically get passed over by the Hulus and Disneys of the world.

So far, he says, the experiment is working, and now Wise is looking to raise some serious capital to keep up with the voracious appetites of his subscribers.

“Send those VCs my way,” Wise jokes.

Subscribe to PCH Driven on Apple, Stitcher, Spotify, iHeart, Google or wherever you get your podcasts.

dot.LA reporter David Shultz contributed to this report.