VAT-refund startup Refundit raises $9.8 million led by travel-tech giant Amadeus

The venture arm of Spanish travel-tech firm Amadeus is leading an investment round of $9.8 million in Israeli startup Refundit, which is developing a mobile solution to make it easier for travelers get their VAT money back after shopping sprees abroad.

Additional investors in the round include Portugal Ventures and other returning seed round investors, the startup said in a statement on Thursday.

Refundit was co-founded in 2017 by serial entrepreneur Uri Levine, best known for co-founding the driving navigation app Waze, which was sold to Google in 2013 for an estimated $1.1 billion, and Ziv Tirosh, former CEO and co-founder of Stockton, a bio-ag technology company. The firm had raised $2.5 million in seed money from investors to date.

The Israeli startup’s digital solution aims to allow tourists from around the world who are visiting Europe to claim their VAT refund via a digital process, without paperwork and without standing on line at the airport. The software is currently being piloted in Belgium.

According to data compiled by Adkit, each year some 90 percent of VAT refunds, or 23 billion euros, are not returned to tourists by the EU.

Amadeus, whose shares are traded on the Spanish Stock Exchange, develops and invests in travel-related technologies, for example providing airline customers with an improved online shopping experience or travel agencies with tools to compare trips and prices.

“At Amadeus, we constantly look for opportunities to take friction out of travel. We’re very excited to welcome Refundit into the Amadeus family and we look forward to working together with the team to bring this much-needed improvement to travelers,” said Stefan Ropers, president, Strategic Growth Businesses, Amadeus, who will be joining the startup’s board of directors.

Amadeus set up its startup investment program, Amadeus Ventures, in 2014, making minority investments in early stage startups. On top of the funding, portfolio startups get access to expertise, customers and other technologies. The investment in Refundit is Amadeus Ventures’s fourth investment this year.

Since its inception, Amadeus Ventures has given access to more than 150 startups to its business and developed more than 20 joint projects with its portfolio companies.

“Refundit and its people tick all the right boxes in terms of what we look for in strategic investments,” said Suzanna Chiu, head of Amadeus Ventures, in the statement. “The app improves the traveler experience enormously and adds value at every step of the VAT reclaim process,”

At the end of 2018 Amadeus employed 19,000 workers globally. The firm has a market value of some euro 31 billion ($34 billion).

The number of air travelers is expected to double to 8.2 billion by 2037, representing a compound annual growth rate of 3.5% from end 2018, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

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