Japanese entrepreneur unveils vacation rentals service of luxury getaways in Asia

Yusuke Obinata a.k.a. Obi, co-founder and CEO of Upstay

See the original story in Japanese.

For a Japanese person in his 20s, it is not an exaggeration to say that Yusuke Obinata, a.k.a. Obi, is one of the most well-known players on the Asian startup scene. His history includes time as a student at Waseda University, working as an intern for startups, and until the beginning of this year he served as the international director for East Ventures. Over the last year he has toured local startup hubs around Southeast Asia looking for areas with a potential for vertical growth, with no one surpassing his ability to network and power to act. Finally his relentless efforts have begun to take shape.

On Tuesday, Obinata and his team launched Upstay, a high-end vacation rentals service for Southeast Asia. Initially, they will be serving accommodations in three locations: Bangkok (including Pattaya), Phuket, and Bali. The service is available in Japanese and English, with plans to encourage broad use throughout Southeast Asia by supporting the languages of the various Asian countries in the near future.

With the rise of Airbnb, HomeAway, and so on, vacation rentals have become a vibrant market over the past several years. On the other hand, as a new trend among travelers, rather than staying in nice hotels at their destination, an increasing number of millennials are choosing to stay in luxury serviced accomodations with pools and gyms for the same price. However, Obinata’s diagnosis is that, in the past, with demand for accommodations less than the available supply on the marketplace for vacation rentals, high-end, good quality properties often got buried in the search results.

He says:

In the beginning EC (e-commerce sites) was like eBay, connecting sellers and buyers in a pure C2C model. Now, sites with a bunch of useful, accompanying services have become mainstream. I thought, for the vacation rental world, something that introduces high-end properties in the same way should enter the picture.


Upstay has agreements with suppliers who manage serviced accommodations in Bangkok, Phuket, and Bali, specializes in high-end properties, and in focusing on high-quality related services, aims to incorporate the middle-upper stratum of travelers as opposed to backpackers and the like. To ensure the quality of services, Upstay has limited the suppliers who provide listings to those that have cleared certain criteria and are property management companies. As for individual suppliers, they have narrowed it down to professionals skilled in providing accomodations only.

He added:

Since Asian people traditionally do not have the custom of staying in other people’s homes, (vacation rentals, from high-end to low-end) could be difficult to get the mass to use. (The original concept of a vacation rental) is alternative accommodation, without renting a large room at a hotel, the idea that you can stay in a cheap room and use the space freely is revolutionary.

Obinata will make Southeast Asia the stage for this new business. Incorporated in Singapore, Upstay plans to have their operating base in Bangkok. In all of Japan the inbound tourists total 20 million, and since in Bangkok alone (just one city in Thailand) they see as many as 21 million inbound travelers in just one year, it is an easy environment to connect with suppliers of serviced accommodations, making it easier for Upstay to do business there. A quick look at Upstay’s employee lineup reveals Takuya Teshima, who had a hand in the development of a variety of platforms for Line and is now serving as Upstay’s CTO.

In Asia, a new form of hotel services has appeared with NIDA Rooms, Zenrooms, RedDoorz, AiryRooms, Oyorooms, etc., but there is no such service in Japan. Although the social system has matured, a side effect of which being low volatility, and even from such a standpoint, if the aim is to change the world with startups, there may be a great deal of importance in spreading roots throughout Asia.

In an angel round Upstay received funds from East Ventures and several unnamed individual investors from Japan and Singapore. In the vertical of high-end vacation rentals, OneFineStay, OwnersDirect, and HouseTrip under jurisdiction from TripAdvisor focus on Europe and the US, but there is no possible competitor in Asia so far.

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Translated by Amanda Imasaka
Edited by Masaru Ikeda