Attaining 20M+ monthly visitors, Retty, Japan’s answer to Yelp, gets $10.5M series D funding

Retty CEO Kazuya Takeda

See the original story in Japanese.

Tokyo-based Retty, the Japanese startup behind the restaurant finder app of the same name, announced today that it has fundraised $1.1 billion yen (about $10.5 million) in a series D round. This round was led by World Innovation Lab (WiL) with participation from ABC Dream Ventures and Eight Roads Ventures Japan. ABC Dream Ventures is the investment arm of Osaka-based private TV broadcaster Asahi Broadcasting Corporation. Eight Roads Ventures Japan (previously known as Fidelity Growth Japan) also participated in a series C round for Retty back in March of 2015. For Retty, the funding sum from disclosed rounds including this time has reached 2.55 billion yen (about $24.3 million).

The company claims that the funds raised this time will be used to hire system engineers to develop an overseas edition of the app, improve and fulfill a dashboard interface for restaurants as well as upgrading backend system infrastructure for global service expansion.

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Retty’s MAUs growth since its launch.

Coinciding with this, the company announced that they have surpassed 20 million monthly active users (MAUs) as of May, 2016. Given the marking of a milestone 10 million monthly active users in May of 2015, they spent almost five years to acquire the first 10 million monthly active users but the latter 10 million users was gained only within an year… which is five times faster. Meanwhile, Retty rolled out its mobile web interface back in May.

Retty has been looking into global expansion for a long time, but the road towards that doesn’t look smooth. They tried to expand into the US and Singapore in 2012 but later was forced to leave these markets. At a press conference back in 2015 commemorating the milestone of 10 million monthly active users, they revealed the start of their Asian expansion within that year but the plan has not yet been carried out. However, according to Retty CEO Kazuya Takeda, their targeted milestone of 100 million monthly active users by the year of 2020 has never been changed. This goal can be achieved by targeting the global market as well as the Japanese market and their global expansion is mandatory, he says.

We cannot yet disclose which country to start with. However, we want to start our global expansion effort with the Asian region.

Mobile web interface was renewed in May.

For Retty, their global expansion effort will require no local office in the targeted market since their app localization and user engagement efforts are primarily conducted at their headquarters in Tokyo. Therefore, as long as they are focused on B2C (business-to-consumer), it would entail less risk for them. Retty relies for its primary revenue on driving customer traffic to restaurants as well as in-app ads by renowned Japanese companies. Leveraging local agents, they would be able to achieve a business on top of the same model even abroad.

In the vertical, specifically serving restaurants to help them improve their sales and streamline their operations, we’ve seen a solid growth of restaurant reservation, customer ledger and POS (point-of-sales) services such as TabSquare (Singapore) and iChef (Taiwan and Hong Kong) in addition to Japan’s Toreta which recently started its operation in Singapore. Takeda told The Bridge that his company will not compete with these operators but rather potentially collaborate with each other. As a matter of fact, Retty has partnered with other service operators like HotPepper and OpenTable in Japan.

We have been told that the trends of gourmet apps are usually changed every five years. Given the fact that the Retty iOS app was released in November of 2011, this year will be crucial for the company looking at loftier goals.

Employees devoting themselves to discussions at Retty’s office.

Edited by “Tex” Pomeroy