ON THE ROAD AGAIN

Texas travel company revs up for out-of-state expansion

Vonlane is now driving beyond Texas. Courtesy photo

In response to pandemic-triggered travel interruptions, Dallas-based high-end bus operator Vonlane is expanding its services to include out-of-state charters and in-state parcel shipping.

In a Memorial Day message to customers, Vonlane founder and CEO Alex Danza said the company now offers charter service to destinations across the continental U.S., citing examples like Colorado, Florida, and New Orleans. Danza says this provides long-distance travel when airline flights aren't an option.

"These bespoke trips allow you to travel privately with your friends, family, and business associates aboard your own Private Jet on Wheels," Danza wrote. "You name the pickup location, destination, and dates while we handle all of the logistics."

Vonlane has also rolled out a same-day parcel shipping service in Texas, where packages basically hitch a ride with the motor coaches.

"Need to get something to a loved one, friend, or business associate in Austin, Dallas, or Houston today?" Danza said. "Send it aboard the next Vonlane departure for a flat fee."

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, Vonlane halted its city-to-city bus service due to a lack of demand. Some routes returned on May 29, including Dallas-Austin, Dallas-Houston, and Houston-Austin.

In putting its luxury buses back on the road, Vonlane is adopting a number of measures designed to curb the spread of the coronavirus, such as limiting the passenger count to 13 by blocking all aisle seats through June 30; requiring passengers and employees to wear face coverings; and checking passengers' temperatures before boarding.

"As one of our core values, the safety of our passengers, crew, and fellow over-the-road travelers is our top priority," Danza says in a May 26 release. "In light of the current coronavirus situation, Vonlane is maximizing our efforts to make sure the Vonlane experience is as responsible, safe, and comfortable as our passengers have come to expect."

Danza says Vonlane hopes to resurrect its Fort Worth, San Antonio, and Oklahoma City routes "as soon as feasible."

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

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Building Houston

 
 

Growing Houston blockchain startup has raised $4 million to go toward supporting sales growth. Graphic courtesy of Data Gumbo

An industrial blockchain-as-a-service startup based in Houston has closed a series B funding round thanks to support from both new and returning investors.

Data Gumbo Corp., which uses its blockchain network GumboNet to optimize smart contracts for oil and gas supply chains, announced its first close in its $4 million series B funding round that was led by new investor L37, which has operations in the Bay Area and in Houston. The round also saw contribution from returning investors Equinor Ventures and Saudi Aramco Energy Venture.

The funds will go toward growing Data Gumbo's sales team, which has been busy with the company's growth. While providing their own set of challenges and obstacles, both the pandemic and drop in oil prices meant oil and gas companies are prioritizing lean operations — something DataGumbo is able to help with.

"The opportunity in all this is companies have got to cut expenses," Andrew Bruce, CEO and founder, tells InnovationMap. "What's happened to us is our sales have absolutely exploded — in a good way. We have a huge number of leads, and we have to be able to deliver on those leads."

Bruce says leading the sales growth is Bill Arend, who was hired Data Gumbo's chief commercial officer this spring. Data Gumbo also recently announced that Richard Dobbs, 30-year veteran of McKinsey and former director of the McKinsey Global Institute, has joined the board as chairman.

"Dobbs is a recognized strategic industry thinker," Bruce says in a release. "His distinct expertise will lend structure, support and validation to Data Gumbo as we experience aggressive company growth."

Of course, fundraising in this unprecedented time, isn't easy. Bruce says he and his team were able to succeed thanks to a new investor, L37, which came from an introduction within Bruce's network.

"Data Gumbo is the category leader for industrial smart contracts, which is an inevitable next step in digital transformation of the oil and gas industry," says Kemal Farid, a partner in L37, in a statement. "There is a lack of transparency, visibility and accuracy between counterparts of contracts that increases the costs of doing business and this has been greatly exacerbated by the current business landscape. We look forward to applying our experience to propel the company along its journey to bring transactional certainty and cost efficiency to commercial relationships."

Additionally, Bruce says he's very proud of his company's return investors, who are also clients of DataGumbo.

"[We also have] the continuous support by our original investors — Aramco and Equinor — they invested in us not just once but twice," Bruce says. "They have been tremendously supportive, not just from an investor perspective, but also proving the value. We've got multiple projects starting with both of those companies."

Bruce says he already has eyes for another venture capital round — perhaps sometime next year — for Data Gumbo, which has raised $14.8 million to date. However, the company isn't far from profitability and growth from that avenue too.

"We're going to have the luxury of choice," Bruce says. "We want to grow as aggressively as possible so we are probably going to go the venture capital route."


GumboNet: Smart Contacts Made Simple www.youtube.com

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