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SilverRail expands with $40m equity round
From the Financial Times of Mon, 14 Apr 2014 19:42:18 GMT

SilverRail is extending its train booking technology for European and North American train services to cover Asian operators as well, following a $40m equity funding round led by the investment group of PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel and Ajay Royan.

The specialist technology company, which is based in Shoreditch, London, but with development arms in Boston and Brisbane, has over the past five years created a single platform to knit together different rail service operators similar to those long available in the airline industry.

The company was created by Aaron Gowell and Will Phillipson, who had both been involved in the early iterations of travel booking technology during the dotcom years of the 1990s.

Their idea with SilverRail was to simplify what has been a complex process of booking point-to-point tickets using multiple rail company services, creating a system that is useful for both online ticket booking sites and travel agents alike.

The platform covers nine providers across the European and North American rail markets, which together generate $60bn of revenue from train tickets each year.

The latest countries to be included on the platform are Spain, Italy, and Sweden, but the goal now is to have all main global rail carriers integrated on the system, according to Mr Gowell.

“We want to be the Rosetta stone of rail travel,” he said, adding that there was an opportunity because none of the big technology companies had looked at the specialist needs of rail service operators, which have each developed their own systems independently.

The latest funding round brings the total amount of equity the company has raised to $73m. The company could have taken more money because of the interest from investors, Mr Gowell claimed.

“I think the world is realising that rail is the last big service space out there that nobody has figured out.”

It was led by Mithril Capital Management, the global technology investment fund founded by Ajay Royan and Peter Thiel, and supported by existing investors – Canaan Partners, Sutter Hill Ventures and Brook Ventures.

Mr Royan, of Mithril Capital Management, who will join SilverRail’s board, said trains and the web were two critical global networks that had not previously worked well together.

“Currently, a lot of time, energy, and data are being wasted,” he added. “By upgrading the interactions among users, operators, and travel agents, SilverRail is making train travel much easier than air.”

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