Seatfrog, an app which lets people bid for empty first-class rail or airline seats, has raised £4.5m in a Series A funding round led by European VC firm, Octopus Ventures.

Seatfrog lets users take part in a live bidding auction for unused premium seats, right up to departure.

Existing investors, including HOWZAT Partners (the investment team behind Trivago), also participated in the latest funding round, which will be used to make some senior hires in its London and Sydney offices, to grow the company and to develop its product.

The purpose of auctioning off empty seats is to create more revenue for trains and airlines. According to Seatfrog’s research, more than 37 million premium seats aren’t filled across the top 30 airlines, whilst 480 million stay empty across the top seven European rail providers.

Seatfrog partnered with Virgin Trains back in September 2017 to enable customers to upgrade up to 15 minutes before departure, from the smartphone app. The company has also just launched with London North Eastern Railway.

Iain Griffin, CEO and co-founder, said: “Every year billions of pounds in unrealised ancillary revenue passes by because of manual, fragmented legacy processes. We set out a year ago to prove there is a much better way and we’ve done that

“Seatfrog’s technology brings a mobile solution to market designed for the passengers of today. We enable the travel industry to move much faster and evolve their ancillary strategies through intelligent use of real time data, giving their passengers’ an intuitive, mobile-first experience that fits with their busy lives,” he added.

Luke Hakes, a partner at Octopus Ventures, said the firm is thrilled to be leading the funding round and that he is personally excited to be joining the board. “We feel Seatfrog has the opportunity to make a fundamental difference to the way consumers approach the challenges of travelling. Having seen the impact of dynamic revenue management systems within hotels and airlines, we feel there is a very interesting opportunity in applying this approach to the multi-billion-dollar train travel industry. Seatfrog is exactly the kind of forward-thinking technology with a powerful brand, that we want to invest in.”

​David Soskin, co-founder and partner at HOWZAT, concluded: “Without question, Seatfrog is the platform that the industry has been waiting for to improve the upgrade experience. Ancillary revenue strategies across the travel industry are fragmented and there is a lot of untapped potential, particularly in relation to the same-day upgrade process.”