Photo: Vienna by Miroslav Petrasko is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

MetaMarketplace, the vacation-rental platform powered by Waterloo-based Demeure, has raised another $4 million to expand its footprint in the travel industry.

The new investment will enable the company to hire several developers to its 40-member research and development team in downtown Waterloo. Another 45 employees work from offices in Vienna and London, England.

The funding will also help complete the rebranding of Demeure – which launched in 2009 as a business-to-consumer booking service – to MetaMarketplace, a business-to-business market system that enables travel companies to offer their customers a wider variety of private vacation homes for rent.

“We’ve done $4 million, but we were actually over-subscribed, so we might consider increasing that amount,” Scott Johns, CFO at MetaMarketplace, told Communitech News.

The new investment is a mix of private and institutional money, and follows a series of previous raises from private investors totalling about $8 million.

“This will allow us to continue to expand our development team, which we’re actually doing right now,” Johns said, “and also to continue to drive our sales and marketing initiatives.”

MetaMarketplace’s software platform enables companies to sell vacation rentals through their own online branded marketplaces. They can selectively “pull” from a curated portfolio of properties around the world, simplifying an otherwise costly and complex process.

It also allows travel companies to tap into previously closed channels such as timeshares and loyalty programs.

Unlike services like Airbnb and HomeAway, MetaMarketplace properties are professionally managed, which means more peace of mind and less risk for vacationers.

The travel-booking pendulum swung from travel agencies in the past to self-serve travel in recent years, but now a kind of hybrid model is emerging, and MetaMarketplace is capitalizing on this trend.

“I think it’s fascinating what’s happening in the space,” Johns said. “When people first started going online and booking with companies like Expedia, I think they thought they were eliminating a middleman. What they didn’t realize is that they’d just introduced a new middleman.”

Few travellers realize that services like Expedia charge hotels commissions in the range of 30 per cent per booking. This means travel agents can often offer a better rate, he said.

“Our platform allows those travel agencies, as an example, to offer an experience similar to something you might get on Airbnb in terms of a private vacation home, but knowing that it’s professionally managed; that when you get there, somebody’s going to be there with the key; that if something goes wrong, you’re going to get the type of service that you need.”

As for working at MetaMarketplace, Johns said the company offers a startup feel in a fun environment marked by steady growth.

“The ability for every employee in the company to have a meaningful impact on our success is a big thing,” he said. “I think we’re really striving to create a work-hard, play-hard culture where we’re all excited about what we’re doing, but we can have fun doing it, too.”

The fact that the platform enables people to enjoy vacations simply adds to that, “because everyone can typically relate to their travel experiences and how our platform can facilitate those for businesses,” Johns said. “It’s always interesting to work with a product you can relate to.”