- UAE-based travel brand as a service startup Dharma has raised $3.5 million led by Convivialite Ventures with additional backing from Mubadala Capital's Hub71.
- The startup is a graduate of Hub71 programme and recently came out of stealth mode.
- Founded in 2018 by Nisma Benani, Charaf El Mansouri, and Leah Howe, Dharma enables travel entities to establish their brands. Its clientele includes travel media publication Culture Trip, Bitso, a cryptocurrency unicorn, Pernod Ricard, a global wine and spirits manufacturer, and Equinox, a luxury fitness brand, and Light Watkins, among others
Eric Cantona, the sporting legend and former captain of Manchester United, unveiled today that he is launching a travel brand in partnership with DHARMA, the disruptive startup that builds travel brands for the passion economy.
Eric Cantona commented: “Our idea was to create the most passionate football trips on earth, with charisma and soul. Everything today is optimised for price - we wanted to optimise for passion.”
Looking FC (www.lookingfc.com) features 4-day trips uniquely crafted by Cantona himself that take guests on an immersive sporting pilgrimage to explore global football cities through the lens of the world’s most vibrant clubs and their loyal fans.
“We believe the future of travel will be driven by passion, not geography. As people re-assign their identities to online communities, the need for IRL connection with like-minded people will only grow - that is the space DHARMA’s travel-brand-as-a-service model is pioneering. Our value proposition is unique in that it blends online SaaS technology with automated tour operations, empowering iconic people and brands to not only monetize their network through travel but also create differentiation through the ultimate brand equity play: transformative experiences.” said Charaf El Mansouri, CEO and co-founder at DHARMA.
Launched in 2018 by travel pioneers Nisma Benani, Charaf El Mansouri, and Leah Howe, Dharma counts Culture Trip, the largest travel media publication in the world, Bitso, a cryptocurrency unicorn, Pernod Ricard, the second largest wine and spirits maker globally, Equinox, the world’s leading luxury fitness brand, and Light Watkins, the meditation instructor for the likes of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, among its many clients.
“During a summit of Mount Toubkal we were organising for Equinox in Morocco, Charaf and I asked ourselves: what if we could do this for every Equinox in the world? We are unlocking a new world of opportunity in travel that is disruptive and downright exhilarating, from wellness to street art to cannabis. The opportunities are limitless and we can’t wait to share the upcoming launches and partnerships we have planned for this year.” said Leah Howe, CXO and co-founder.
DHARMA was one of the first startups accepted into Mubadala’s Hub71 program, with the founding team relocating to Abu Dhabi from New York and Marrakech.
“If anyone has a doubt that the next travel tech disruption will come out of the UAE, they haven’t been paying attention. This country thinks in 50 year increments and is a case study in pushing the frontiers of travel.
DHARMA is a remote-native team with backgrounds in some of the most exciting tech and travel companies on earth such as Uber, Airbnb, Equinox, Butterfield & Robinson, and G Adventures. The company has announced raising a total of $3.5M over the past year backed by leading investors in the hospitality and passion economy space. This includes Convivialite Ventures (San Francisco), the CVC of Pernod Ricard, one of the largest wine & spirits makers globally, L& Ventures (Salzburg), the CVC of Loop Agentur, the global marketing agency for Puma, Red Bull, and Porsche, BY Venture Partners (Beirut), early backers of Sowork, Thread, and Ro, Shorooq (Abu Dhabi), the leading VC in MENA, and Flat6Labs (Cairo), the leading accelerator in MENA.
“Our mission is to connect the world through the power of shared experience. To find one’s dharma is to find one’s purpose, one’s alignment, one’s calling. That’s what travel should be all about, and that is something that resonates with our team, our investors, our hosts, and our guests. We are so excited about the future of travel, with 2022’s Booked GMV already 30x that of 2019, and 6x that of 2021.” said Nisma Benani, CFAO and co-founder.