VC-Backed Travel Startup Inspirato Takes over Rival’s Portfolio

12/19/13Follow @MichaelXBD

Inspirato, the Denver-based luxury vacation club that has raised $48.5 million from Silicon Valley heavy hitters like Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Institutional Venture Partners, said Wednesday it is taking over the portfolio of rival Portico. Portico had been part of Denver-based Exclusive Resorts.

The deal was officially labeled a “combination,” and the amount of the transaction was undisclosed. It will bring Inspirato additional properties and potentially clients, as well as a new investor. Revolution Places, created by AOL founder and former chairman Steve Case, owns Portico and Exclusive Resorts. The holding company is now a minority investor in the expanded Inspirato and will get a board seat in the newly combined company.

Luxury travel clubs might not initially seem too tech related, but the names involved, VC ties, and business models have deep connections to the tech world.

Inspirato is a luxury travel club that, like Airbnb, relies on a new business model that seeks to disrupt the traditional travel industry. Both rely on traveller’s increasing willingness to stay in other people’s homes, only in Inspirato’s case, they’re usually a lot bigger and nicer.

Inspirato leases luxury homes, many of which are valued in the millions of dollars, in vacation havens and makes them available to members. According to TechCrunch, members pay an initiation fee of $17,500 and annual dues of $3,000, much like they would to belong in a country club. They also pay for each night’s stay.

The transaction price was not disclosed, but it’s a deal Inspirato president David Kallery said positions his company for rapid growth as it solidifies its position in the new travel industry.

“The combination will really help us. It’s going to help us with a little bit additional credibility…that will really help us on the growth side,” Kallery said, comparing it to the boost the company received when it struck a partnership with American Express.

It also will help Inspirato land better partners willing to lease properties, he said.

While the deal takes out Inspirato’s closest competitor, the vacation industry remains in flux, with companies like Airbnb and VRBO remaining as indirect competitors. All cater to individuals looking to stay at properties owned by other people, and not hoteliers.

But the companies cater to different market segments, and “there’s room enough for all of us” Kallery said.

Kallery said Inspirato differentiates itself by catering to a more exclusive (and richer) customer base. Among its features are concierge-like vacation advisors who know their clients and can make personalized recommendations.

Inspirato also does not rely on peer-reviews and aims for a more consistent level of quality across its network, he said.

Inspirato now has about 210 employees working out of Denver’s Lower Downtown neighborhood. Portico’s portfolio brings it 30 new destinations, giving Inspirato more than 100. The combined companies have more than 7,000 members.

In addition to Kleiner Perkins and IVP, Colorado-based venture capital firm Access Venture Partners is an investor in Inspirato. Crunchfund, the firm created by TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington, also invested in the round.

Michael Davidson is the editor of Xconomy Boulder/Denver. He covers startups, venture capital, clean tech, energy, aerospace, telecoms, and whatever else happens above 5,280 feet. Contact him at mdavidson@xconomy.com. Follow @MichaelXBD

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