April 19, 2024
Korea's Myrealtrip cashes in on travel rebound with $56M in new funding | TechCrunch

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Myrealtrip is the latest travel tech company to ride a growing post-pandemic tourism industry. The Seoul-based startup said today it has raised $56.7 million (75.6 billion KRW) in a Series F equity round of funding to accelerate its business and product innovation and ramp up its hiring.

Global tourism has rebounded to pre-pandemic levels in the third quarter of 2023, according to a recent UN World Tourism Organization report. Travel tech companies again prepare to speed up their business expansion.

“The travel industry was fragmented 12 years ago in South Korea, and there was no platform that provided travel information,” CEO of Myrealtrip Donggun Lee said in an exclusive interview with TechCrunch. Now the 12-year-old company, which has 7.9 million users in South Korea, aims to be a super app in the travel industry, offering travel booking services, from flights, accommodations, activities, to local transportation.

The company partnered with around 2,000 travel agencies, hotel platforms, and airfare comparison service providers like Expedia, Agoda, and Viator to enable travelers to book services tours, activities, restaurants, local transportation, hotels and Airbnb-like accommodations globally.

Its valuation increased by 3x since its last equity funding, Series D, in 2020, Lee told TechCrunch, without providing an exact figure. The company valuation was estimated at more than 200 billion KRW in 2020, per previous media outlets.

Lee also said that Myrealtrip had seen its revenue surge by three times since 2022. The outfit posted a gross merchandise volume (GMV) of $746 million (1 trillion KRW) in 2023. It aims to double its GMV and generate an EBITDA of $12 million this year, Lee noted.

Image Credits: Myrealtrip

Like most travel companies, the Korean startup faced challenges during the pandemic lockdown. The company says it could survive with the capital it had secured in 2020 and debt financing in 2022 in preparation for post-pandemic.

“Myrealtrip prioritized domestic tourism and launched new features like a group trip or business travel to survive for the last two challenging years,” Lee said.

The company did not just expand its domestic tourism but also made several acquisitions and strategic investments. Myrealtrip acquired Startrip in 2022 to capture the number of foreign tourists visiting South Korea post-pandemic. This travel platform lets users discover and book Korean-pop (K-pop) themed spots, including popular boy band BTS music video filming locations. Lee said it plans to operate Startrip as a separate entity to improve its service with advanced technology.

Myrealtrip also invested in IwaTrip, a Korean travel platform that helps users find available spots to travel with kids, and O-Peace, a co-working and co-living space platform designed for digital nomads workers.

Technology will be key to the long-term success of drawing its inbound and outbound travel users as well as foreign tourists to take on its competitors like SoftBank-backed Klook, which raised $210 million last month; Yanolja; Agoda; and Airbnb.

Lee said the company, which uses AI chatbots for customer services, will invest more in technology, including AI capabilities, before its planned initial public offering in 2026.

Returning investors BlueRun Ventures Korea and IMM Investment co-led the round, which brings its total raised to approximately $113 million (150 billion KRW) in equity and $39 million in debt since its inception in 2012. New investors Korelya Capital, marking its first investment in South Korea, and Vanderbilt University’s endowment fund and previous backers, including Altos Ventures, Partech Partners, Smilegate and SV Investment, also joined the Series F.

The company has 300 employees as of today.

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