“Moving is living,” says George Clooney’s Ryan Bingham in Up in the Air, a movie that now feels like another lifetime ago.
As the travel slowed worldwide during the pandemic, our team at Miles like many other companies had to pivot. How could Miles, the world’s first platform that universally rewards all forms of travel, survive in a world that was encouraging people to shelter-in-place and work from home?
In line with our Series A funding news (Verge, Phocuswire, MarTech Series), I wanted to share the story behind the growth of Miles, the challenges we’ve overcome over the past year and how we’ve grown our team, our platform and our marketplace with partners
– against many odds – to set up our business up for the next phase of growth.
Building the world’s first universal reward platform
In 2016, Paresh Jain, Parin Shah and I left our roles at Cisco and Morgan Stanley to found our own company. At the time, we didn’t know that our next adventure would be called Miles, or even what it would empower people to do.
But collectively we saw an opportunity to deliver more value to people as transportation continued to evolve.
Every year, the average consumer travels thousands of miles via some form of ground transportation. And yet, despite this, mobility is a universal behavior that largely goes unrewarded. Solving for this gap in the market was the big idea that led to the launch and mission of Miles – to deliver value for every mile traveled, across every mode of transportation, anywhere in the world.
From launch to billions of miles rewarded
In July 2018, after several years of planning and development by our team, we launched the Miles platform and app, positioning it as
“a frequent flyer program for ground transportation”
Simply put, Miles allows anyone with a smartphone to earn miles and rewards as they travel, redeemable with brands across categories. Whether by car, rideshare, plane, train, subway, bus, bicycle or on foot, Miles effortlessly awards your commute – with sustainable modes of transportation rewarded even further.
Designed to work seamlessly in the background, Miles automatically logs each trip you take from point A to B and the mode of transportation, while keeping your data completely private. You can easily view your progress and miles earned per trip while receiving personalized rewards with leading brands – redeemable either online or at a nearby store.
The response from consumers at launch was incredible. With a strong lineup of brands and local merchants offering rewards, we saw tens of thousands of downloads in the first month.
In 2019 and early 2020, we continued to rapidly scale our platform, while increasing the value of Miles with new rewards and ways to earn miles.
This included partnerships with a number of cities and transit partners including Aspen, Contra Costa Transportation Authority, The City of Sacramento, San Mateo County Transit District (CalTrain & SamTrans), Jacksonville Transportation Authority and Seattle-based Pierce Transit, among others to encourage greener travel.
Extending the value of miles during the pandemic
In March 2020 as the pandemic started, global travel slowed to a near standstill.
Not only did air travel drop by more than 75%, trips via ground transportation were significantly lower – with less than half the number of car, rideshare or transit trips taken by our users.
We quickly re-evaluated and shifted our approach – rewarding users for staying at home. We also worked with partners to add rewards people could more readily use during the pandemic – from discounts on e-commerce and home-delivery services to online workout classes. In line with our vision to make a positive impact on the environment, we also announced 20X bonus miles for greener modes of travel where users were socially distant such as biking, running and walking.
Accelerating into the turn…
In the months that followed, we saw a steady and dramatic rise in the number of rewards redeemed on our platform. There are several factors that helped to drive this growth. The first is that we continued to extend the value of Miles. In the past year, we have more than
doubled the number of rewards available on our platform, while tripling revenue. Today, more than 200 leading brands offer 350 personalized rewards on our marketplace.
Over the past year, our team, which has grown significantly to 40 people, has also worked tirelessly to evolve our platform, providing our users even more benefits and incentives for greener travel. We’ve introduced a number of new ways to redeem miles – from raffles and weekly activity challenges where you can unlock gift cards giveaways from retailers such as Amazon. During the pandemic, we also introduced Miles for charity, allowing users to donate their miles to the charity of their choice.
Fast forward to today and Miles has not only increased adoption with more than a million registered users on iOS and Android, we’ve also dramatically expanded the value of Miles. Since launch, Miles users have
earned 12 billion miles, redeemed 7 million rewards, realizing more than $50 million in savings. This has led to more than $200 million in revenue for our brand partners.
Miles Series A Funding
After years of hard work by our team, I’m thrilled to announce a $12.5 million Series A funding round, led by Scrum Ventures – with participation from TransLink Capital and Japan Airlines (JAL Innovation Fund), TechNexus Venture Collaborative, Aioi Nissay Dowa Insurance (MS&AD), Synapse Partners and several other prominent individual investors.
This capital raise brings Miles’ total funding to $20 million.
Other notable investors include JetBlue Technology Ventures, Liil Ventures, Porsche Ventures, Panasonic, SAIC, Sony Innovation Fund, Urban Us (VC), and Gabe Klein (Co-founder CityFi).
Today, we are also announcing dozens of new reward partners including Acorns, Booking.com, Buffalo Wild Wings, Chewy, Farfetch, Fetch rewards, FuboTV, Garmin, hims, hers, HP, Lego, Pandora, Rover, Sam’s Club, Stash, Smile Direct Club and Wayfair. In total, Miles now has more than 200 reward partners with other notable brands offering rewards on the platform including ButcherBox, Craftsy, Getaroom, Harry’s Razors, Home Chef, Noom, Restaurant.com, Shipt, Thrive Market, as well as gift cards from Amazon, Starbucks, Target and Walmart.
“Miles has not only reimagined travel rewards but created a platform where mobility is universally rewarded – all while delivering incredible value to brand partners. This is evident in the strong user growth and retention, engaged brand partners, and numerous business partnerships. We are very excited about the myriad of opportunities for growth and scale with the company, and how we can support those efforts. We were an early investor in Miles and are thrilled to lead this investment round and join the board. We look forward to working closely with Miles as it continues to execute on its vision to build the world’s first universal rewards platform.”Ryan Mendoza, Partner with Scrum Ventures
By leveraging the Miles’ predictive AI platform, businesses and brands can deliver value to customers by offering to meet their Near Future needs as they travel, such as when someone needs a meal, a ride, or is likely to go shopping or purchase entertainment. This leads to increased customer loyalty and repeat visits, as well as increased sales. Since launch, Miles has delivered more than $200 million in revenue to its brand partners – with the introduction of donations, raffles, gift cards and activity challenges leading to a 15x increase in miles redeemed by users year-over-year.
We are thrilled about the growth we’ve generated to date, but this is just the beginning. With this Series A funding, Miles will continue to invest in research and development, expand our marketplace and grow our team. In addition to the venture firms noted above, individual investors included in the funding round include Vikram Malhotra, Chairman of the Americas with McKenzie; Ashish Toshniwal, CEO of Y Media Labs; Viral Bajaria, Chief Technology Officer of 6Sense; Chenxi Wang, Managing Partner, Rain Capital; and Harris Barton, serial investor and former All-Pro Lineman for The San Francisco 49ers.