SmartRyde, the Japanese startup behind a global airport transfer marketplace under the same name, announced that it has secured approximately 450 million yen (about $3.4 million) in a Series A+ round. This round was led by NVenture Capital (a subsidiary of NEC Capital Solutions), with participation from SMBC Venture Capital, Yamaguchi Capital, Hiroshima Venture Capital, Shigagin Local Innovation SD Fund (managed by Shiga Bank and Quantum Leaps Capital Partners) and Iyogin Capital. The amount includes loans from Japan’s state-run loan company Japan Finance Corporation.
This follows a seed round in December of 2019 and a Series A round in October of 2021. Among the investors participating in this round, SMBC Venture Capital, Yamaguchi Capital, Hiroshima Venture Capital, and Iyogin Capital followed their previous investments. The latest round brought the startup’s funding sum to date up to at least 630 million yen ($4.7 million).
Originally known as DLGP, SmartRyde was founded in March 2017 by founder Sota Kimura, a student at Ritsumeikan University, after he was ripped off by a cab driver on his way from the airport to the city in Thailand. The company has worked with airport transfer cab companies at over 700 airports in 150 countries, as well as with more than 25 OTAs (online travel agencies) such as Booking.com, Expedia, Trip.com, Traveloka, and Despega. The company offers airport transfer cab sales service to users purchasing airline tickets through OTAs.
The service is beneficial to both OTAs and travelers. For travelers, it frees them from the hassle of finding transportation to downtown at the airport. You may know Uber, Grab, and other ridehailing services are not allowed to operate to protect the employment of local cab drivers in selected countries. Furthermore, it may be very helpful to have a driver with your name waiting for you in the arrival lobby, and to have a means of transportation in advance in an environment where you may be less familiar with the language in the destination.
Meanwhile, OTAs are a very thin margin business. They are trying to diversify their product lines to car rentals and various activities in addition to airline tickets and accommodations, but price competition among them intensifies as users try to choose the cheapest option by comparing results from multiple OTAs. Furthermore, OTAs can’t sign contract with every single airport cab operator in the world, but having a bundler like SmartRyde simplifies the coordination process and creates an additional revenue stream.
In conjunction with the funding announcement, SmartRyde also announced the launch of its Demand Partner API, which allows OTAs and airlines to gain additional revenue by selling airport transfer services to customers along with hotel and flight sales.
Since its previous round, SmartRyde has increased its pipeline by integrating its system with Nippon Travel Agency, collaborating with the Splyt mobility service interconnection provider, working with WAmazing offering digital services for inbound travelers to Japan, as well as working with the national flag carrier’s subsidiary and travel agency JALPAK. In August, the company welcomed Alvin Leonard, a former technical manager at Tripadvisor and engineering manager at Alassian, as CTO.