Asian travel platform Klook raises $60M with backing from Goldman Sachs

Jon Russell
Asian travel platform Klook raises $60M with backing from Goldman Sachs

Sometimes, for growth stage startups raising money, when it rains it pours.

That's the case for Klook, a Hong Kong-based travel startup that specializes in helping travelers book trip activities and logistics for when they are overseas.

Klook raised $30 million Series B back in March and, despite admitting that it has barely touched that cash, today it revealed that it has competed a $60 million round that adds Goldman Sachs to its list of backers. That takes it to over $96 million raised to date.

Existing investors Sequoia (lead) and Matrix Partners returned to participate in the Series C round, which Klook co-founder Eric Gnock Fah told TechCrunch will accelerate the firm's plan to expand outside of Asia.

"We thought Goldman would be great value for our expansion plan [and] it is always good to have a war chest when we're competing within the travel industry," he said in an interview.

Three-year-old Klook describes its business as an "in-destination" booking platform -- that essentially means that it is a one-stop service for arranging any kind of activity while a traveler is on a trip. That spans fairly mundane items such as travel train or hotel transfer cars, as well as more exotic affairs like diving courses, museum entry, or other general tourist attractions.

"Imagine walking down a road in Phuket, Thailand" Fah said. "Instead of negotiating with an agent, you open the app and you can book directly with the best price."

Beyond helping make things easier for tourists, Klook also enables tour operators and attraction owners to tap into an audience of travelers with pre-bookings and marketing opportunities. In that way it mirrors China's booming online-to-offline space -- major player Meituan Dianping raised $4 billion just last week -- but helping the travel industry and its various verticals to tap into online opportunities.

In March, Klook said it had clocked five million bookings to date and its latest figures are over one million bookings per month. A whopping 70 percent of those are made from mobile devices. While not profitable yet, Fah said the company could break even if it wanted but it is instead going after growth.

Initially focused on opportunities with Asian travelers and destinations in Asia, Klook has scaled to over 300 employees across 13 offices in the continent. When it raised that Series B it was already talking about pushing into the U.S., Europe and Oceania and this new round will allow that to happen faster than originally anticipated. Fah said the startup will open an office in U.S. -- most likely New York -- and follow suit in other key Western countries in 2018. Those locations will primary focus on business development and marketing.

"We already bring Asian travelers into these [Western] destinations, but there is so much more we can do on the supply side," Fah said. "That includes working with tourism boards and merchants themselves."

Interestingly, the Klook founder said demand for the Series C was so hot among existing backers that it had to turn down interest from other parties, including a number of strategic investors from the travel industry. He said the startup will remain "open minded" about working with such investors in the future, but for now it has opted to remain neutral and not financially aligned to specific any particular vendor or brand.

There's no update on IPO plans since that Series B either. Fah previously said the firm would likely list before 2020 in either its native Hong Kong or the U.S. and this time around he would say only that it is "in the pipeline" for the future.

"To a certain extent, from a legal and compliance angle [related to requirements around the Goldman investment], the company is already an IPO candidate," he added.