Japan’s Travee secures seed funding, offering more activity options for Western travelers to Asia



See the original story in Japanese.

Japanese startup Travee, the company that provides a travel activity matching platform under the same name, announced earlier this week that it has secured an undisclosed sum from CyberAgent Ventures (CAV) and Will Group Incubate Fund in a seed round. CAV put their money from their Seed Generator Fund. Will Group Incubate Fund is funded by Japanese leading staffing company Will Group (TSE:6089) and operated by Future Venture Capital (TSE:8462).

Travee is a marketplace for individual travelers visiting Southeast Asia, providing activity plans arranged by local hosts with the aim to encourage more foreign visitor interactions with locals. The platform has acquired about 100 plans, primarily excursions around Bangkok, Thailand. Users have to pay fee in advance to attend any of these plans, and the platform will take 10% from the user and 20% from the host as commission when a deal is made.

Travee co-founder and CEO Kenichi Ikeda (right), co-founder and CPO Yuzuru Ishii (left)

Travee co-founder and CEO Kenichi Ikeda told The Bridge about what has triggered them to launch the service:

When attending university, I was majoring in tourism and visited Bangkok many times as a tour conductor side side. Because of connections since then, I’ve been serving a non-profit organization called the Association of Mutual Support in ASEAN as director.

Thanks to increased penetration of the internet, budget airlines and vacation rentals like Airbnb, drastic changes in prices for and methods of travel have occurred. However, the travel purposes are not changed from what they used to be. There are ways to enjoy trips that only a handful of individual travelers know. Based on the concept considering not only beautiful scenery and majestic nature but also the local people as most precious tourism resources, we developed a matching platform for travel activities focused on interaction with locals at various destinations.

According to Ikeda, about 15 million foreigners visit Bangkok each year, 80% of them being tourists. Compared to about 13 million people visiting all destinations in Japan nationwide, not just in Tokyo, it is obvious how popular Bangkok is among international travelers.

If one developed a service intended only for Japanese tourists, its potential user base would be relatively small (only about 2 million Japanese visit Bangkok in a year) and limit acquisition of local hosts for the activity plans in foreign languages. That’s why the team decided to develop the platform in English and serve tourists from Western countries. CEO Ikeda and his right arm Yuzuru Ishii, co-founder and Chief Project Officer (CPO) who completed a prototype of the platform last fall, have spent many days in November and December in Bangkok for engineering improvement as well as marketing and networking efforts with the local community.

Ikeda elaborated:

Since the launch of the Travee platform, we have seen organic growth in users from Western countries. For locals who want to list their activity plans on the platform, deals can provide them with a high income considering the wage level in the region, meaning that it will make it easier to acquire local hosts when we expand to other cities or countries beyond Bangkok.

We will definitely become number one in Southeast Asia; we plan on expanding into East Asia such as China and Korea afterwards.

In this space, we’ve seen several competitors like Meetrip which was acquired by Donuts Bangkok in November 2013. Since 1997, Viator has been offering activity plans arranged by businesses rather than individual hosts and was acquired by TripAdvisor last year. US-based Peek is not showing any interest in expanding into the Asian market so far. Taking all these into consideration, these platforms are thought to successfully share markets to some extent with each others.

In addition to the organic growth, Travee is exploring affiliate relationships with flight and hotel booking sites to accelerate user acquisition.

 Edited by “Tex” Pomeroy