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Main article: Temasek

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Memphis Meats raised $161 million from SoftBank Group, Norwest and Temasek

02:42 | 23 January

Memphis Meats, a developer of technologies to manufacture meat, seafood and poultry from animal cells, has raised $161 million in financing from investors including Softbank Group, Norwest and Temasek, the investment fund backed by the government of Singapore.

The investment brings the company’s total financing to $180 million. Previous investors include individual and institutional investors like Richard Branson, Bill Gates, Threshold Ventures, Cargill, Tyson Foods, Finistere, Future Ventures, Kimbal Musk, Fifty Years and CPT Capital.

Other companies including Future Meat Technologies, Aleph Farms, Higher Steaks, Mosa Meat and Meatable are pursuing meat grown from cell cultures as a replacement for animal husbandry, whose environmental impact is a large contributor to deforestation and climate change around the world.

Innovations in computational biology, bio-engineering and materials science are creating new opportunities for companies to develop and commercialize technologies that could replace traditional farming with new ways to produce foods that have a much lower carbon footprint and bring about an age of superabundance, according to investors.

The race is on to see who will be the first to market with a product.

“For the entire industry, an investment of this size strengthens confidence that this technology is here today rather than some far-off future endeavor. Once there is a “proof of concept” for cultivated meat — a commercially available product at a reasonable price point — this should accelerate interest and investment in the industry,” said Bruce Friedrich, the executive director of the Good Food Institute, in an email. “This is still an industry that has sprung up almost overnight and it’s important to keep a sense of perspective here. While the idea of cultivated meat has been percolating for close to a century, the very first prototype was only produced six years ago.”

 


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Impossible adds ‘ground pork’ and ‘sausages’ to its lineup of plant-based foods

04:13 | 8 January

Impossible Foods made huge waves in the food industry when it came up with a way of isolating and using “heme” molecules from plants to mimic the blood found in animal meat (also comprised of heme), bringing a new depth of flavor to its vegetarian burger.

This week at CES, the company is presenting the next act in its mission to get the average consumer to switch to more sustainable, plant-based proteins: it unveiled its version of pork — specifically ground pork, which will be sold as a basic building block for cooking as well as in sausage form. It’s a critical step, given that pork is the most-eaten animal product in the world.

Impossible has set up shop in CES’s outdoor area, situated near a line of food trucks, and it will be cooking food for whoever wants to come by. (I tasted a selection of items made from the new product — a steamed bun, a meatball, some noodles and a lettuce wrap — and the resemblance is uncanny, and not bad at all.) And after today, the new product will be making its way first to selected Burger King restaurants in the US before appearing elsewhere.

It may sound a little far-fetched to see a food startup exhibiting and launching new products at a consumer electronics show, attended by 200,000 visitors who will likely by outnumbered by the number of TVs, computers, phones, and other electronic devices on display. Indeed, Impossible is the only food exhibitor this year.

But if you ask Pat Brown, the CEO and founder of Impossible Foods (pictured right, at the sunny CES stand in the cold wearing a hat), the company is in precisely the right place.

“To me it’s very natural to be at CES,” he said in an interview this week at the show. “The food system is the most important technology on earth. It is absolutely a technology, and an incredibly important one, even if it doesn’t get recognised as such. The use of animals as a food technology is the most destructive on earth. And when Impossible was founded, it was to address that issue. We recognised it as a technology problem.”

That is also how Impossible has positioned itself as a startup. Its emergence (it was founded 2011) dovetailed with an interesting shift in the world of tech. The number of startups were booming, fuelled by VC money and a boom in smartphones and broadband. At the same time, we were starting to see a new kind of startup emerging built on technology but disrupting a wide range of areas not traditionally associated with technology. Technology VCs, looking for more opportunities (and needing to invest increasingly larger funds), were opening themselves up to consider more of the latter opportunities.

Impossible has seized the moment. It has raised around $777 million to date from a list of investors more commonly associated with tech companies — they include Khosla, Temasek, Horizons Ventures, GV, and a host of celebrities — and Impossible is now estimated to be valued at around $4 billion. Brown told me it is currently more than doubling revenues annually.  

With his roots in academia, the idea of Brown (who has also done groundbreaking work in HIV research) founding and running a business is perhaps as left-field a development as a food company making the leap from commodity or packaged good business to tech. Before Impossible, Brown said that he had “zero interest” in becoming an entrepreneur: the bug that has bitten so many others at Stanford (where he was working prior to founding Impossible) had not bitten him.

“I had an awesome job where I followed my curiosity, working on problems that I found interesting and important with great colleagues,” he said.

That changed when he began to realise the scale of the problem resulting from the meat industry, which has led to a well-catalogued list of health, economic and environmental impacts (including increased greenhouse gas emissions and the removal of natural ecosystems to make way for farming land. “It is the most important and consequential issue for the future of the world, and so the solution has to be market-based,” he said. “The only way we can replace themes that are this destructive is by coming up with a better technology and competing.”

Pork is a necessary step in that strategy to compete. America, it seems, is all about beef and chicken when it comes to eating animals. But pigs and pork take the cake when you consider meat consumption globally, accounting for 38% of all meat production, with 47 pigs killed on average every second of every day. Asia, and specifically China, figure strongly in that demand. Consumption of pork in China has increased 140% since 1990, Impossible notes.

Pigs’ collective footprint in the world is also huge: there are 1.44 billion of them, and their collective biomass totals 175 kg, twice as much as the biomass of all wild terrestrial vertebrates, Impossible says.

Whether Impossible’s version of pork will be enough or just an incremental step is another question. Ground meat is not the same as creating structured proteins that mimic the whole-cuts that are common (probably more common) when it comes to how pork is typically cooked (ditto for chicken and beef and other meats).

That might likely require more capital and time to develop.

For now, Impossible is focused on building out its business on its own steam: it’s not entertaining any thoughts of selling up, or even of licensing out its IP for isolating and using soy leghemoglobin — the essential “blood” that sets its veggie proteins apart from other things on the market. (I think of licensing out that IP, as the equivalent of how a tech company might white label or create APIs for third parties to integrate its cool stuff into their services.)

That means there will be inevitable questions down the line about how Impossible will capitalise to meet demand for its products. Brown said that for now there are no plans for IPOs or to raise more externally, but pointed out that it would have no problem doing either.

Indeed, the company has built up an impressive bench of executives and other talent to meet those future scenarios. Earlier this year, Impossible hired Dennis Woodside — the former Dropbox, Google and Motorola star– as its first president. And its CFO, David Lee, joined from Zynga back in 2015, with a stint also in the mass-market food industry, having been at Del Monte prior to that.

Lee told me that the company has essentially been running itself as a public company internally in preparation for a time when it might follow in the footsteps of its biggest competitor, Beyond Meat, and go public.

“From a tech standpoint I’m absolutely confident that we can outperform what we get from animals in affordability, nutrition and deliciousness,” said Brown. “This entire industry is most destructive by far and has major responsibility in terms of climate and biodiversity, but it going to be history and we are going to replace it.”

CES 2020 coverage - TechCrunch

 


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Indonesia’s ride-hailing giant Gojek launches video streaming service GoPlay

09:10 | 26 September

On-demand video streaming giant Netflix, which is increasingly expanding its footprint in developing markets, now has a new competitor in Indonesia: Gojek.

The Indonesian ride-hailing giant on Thursday launched a video streaming service called GoPlay that features exclusive access to “hundreds of movies and TV shows” as well as snackable short clips.

The service, which Gojek began testing with select users in June, focuses on local content, Edy Sulistyo, CEO of GoPlay said. Gojek, which was valued at $9.5 billion in its last financing round, said it has partnered with major local production houses such as Base Entertainment, Kalyana Shira Films, and Wahana Kreator for production of original titles. The firm said it has also tied up with some international studios to source foreign content.

“Despite a rise in demand for local content and a growing number of mobile audiences in Indonesia, access has still been limited especially for consumers living outside of urban areas. With GoPlay, we aim to enable all Indonesian consumers to enjoy high-quality on-demand entertainment at their convenience, while providing a platform for local content producers to showcase their creative work,” said Sulistyo in a statement.

Gojek is offering the video streaming service through two aggressively priced monthly plans: IDR 89,000 ($6.27), which offers access to the full catalog in HD; and IDR 99,000 ($7), which will additionally also provide users with access to GoFood delivery vouchers.

GoPlay will compete with a range of streaming services such as Netflix, iFlix, and Hooq. Netflix last year began testing a low-cost mobile-only plan in some developing markets including Indonesia to boost its presence in those nations. The global giant eventually launched the affordable tier in India earlier this year. A Netflix spokesperson told TechCrunch this week that it currently has no plans to expand the low-cost tier to other markets.

Like many other major firms in Southeast Asia, Gojek is increasingly bulking up its ride-sharing platform to enter additional categories. Today, it offers an online payments service and a gaming platform. The firm began working on its video streaming service last year after it set up an in-house content studio.

Grab, Gojek’s arch rival in Southeast Asian markets, and India’s Ola, have also expanded their offerings in recent years. While Grab, like Gojek, offers everything including a video streaming service, Ola launched a credit card in May.

Grab has a partnership with Hooq for its video streaming service. In the run up to GoPlay’s launch, Hooq CEO Peter Bithos told TechCrunch in an interview that Gojek lacks the reach Hooq maintains in Southeast Asian markets. “Gojek hasn’t been able to get to anything like the scale or reach that we’ve got,” he said.

About 125 million people in Indonesia, or half of the nation’s population, is currently online. Sulistyo said Gojek sees a lot of potential for GoPlay’s growth in the country.

Indonesia has emerged as one of the fastest growing economies in Asia in recent years. According to a study conducted by Google and Singapore’s Temasek, Indonesia’s internet economy is estimated to be worth $100 billion by 2025.

 


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Reefknot Investments launches $50 million fund to invest in logistics and supply chain startups

03:00 | 5 September

Reefknot Investments, a joint venture between Temasek, Singapore’s sovereign fund, and global logistics company Kuehne + Nagel, announced today the launch of a $50 million fund for logistics and supply chain startups. The firm is based in Singapore, but will look for companies around the world that are raising their Series A or B rounds.

Managing director Marc Dragon tells TechCrunch that Reefknot will serve as a strategic investor in its portfolio companies, providing them with connections to partners that include EDBI, SGInnovate, Atlantic Bridge, Vertex Ventures, PSA unBoXed, Unilever Foundry and NUS Enterprise, in addition to Temasek and Kuehne + Nagel .

Dragon, a veteran of the supply chain and logistics industry, says Reefknot plans to invest in about six to eight startups. It is especially interested in companies that are using AI or deep mind tech, digital logistics and trade finance to solve problems that range from analyzing supply chain data and making forecasts to managing the risk of financing trade transactions. Data from Gartner shows that about half of global supply chain companies will use AI, advanced analytics or the Internet of Things in their operations by 2023.

“There is a high level of expectation from vendors that because of technology, there will be new methods to do analytics and planning, and greater visibility in terms of information and product, materials and goods flowing throughout the supply chain,” says Dragon.

Reefknot will also establish a think tank that will work with industry experts and government organizations on forums, research and exploring new logistics and supply chain business models that startups can bring into fruition.

 


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For the next month, the Impossible Whopper will be available at Burger Kings across the country

13:00 | 1 August

Starting in one week, the Impossible Foods plant-based Impossible Burger will be available at Burger King restaurants across the country.

The world’s second largest fast food chain is rolling out the Impossible Whopper nationwide at all of its 7,200 U.S. locations for the next month as it tests the potential demand for the meaty-tasting meatless patty.

Burger King first launched the Impossible Whopper at 59 restaurants in the St. Louis area on April Fool’s day. But the joke seems to be on the restaurant chain for not trying to make the nationwide rollout happen sooner.

Foot traffic to restaurants that sold the Impossible Whopper soared a whopping 18.5%, according to the market analysis firm, inMarket Insights. Over the same period, foot traffic to the company’s restaurants elsewhere in the U.S. declined 1.75%, according to the study, which analyzed location data of 50 million Comscore-verified users.

It’s been a busy week for Impossible Foods, which announced only yesterday that it had inked a partnership with a manufacturer to boost supplies of its heavily in-demand patties. The company also cleared the final regulatory hurdle it faced to bring its Impossible Burgers to grocery stores around the country. So just as Burger King wraps up its trial run, customers across the country will be able to find the patties on store shelves.

Burger King wasn’t the first chain to see the value in adding Impossible Burgers to the menu. Roughly a year ago, White Castle became the first major fast food chain to offer an Impossible Slider on its menu. The burgers can also be found at more upscale fast-casual restaurant chains like Bareburger, Applebee’s, Red Robin, and Five Napkin Burger joints.

While the other chains may have been first, the Burger King rollout is by far the largest.

“From the launch of our test in St. Louis, we knew that our guests really enjoyed the taste of the flame-grilled Impossible Whopper,” said Chris Finazzo, President, North America, Burger King Corporation, in a statement. “We’re now making the Impossible Whopper available for our guests across the country at an unbeatable price for a limited time only so visit one of our restaurants before they sell out.”

One day after the in-store launch, Burger King and DoorDash will offer an “Impossible Taste Test” where customers can order an Impossible Whopper and the original sandwich for $7. For orders of $10 or more, DoorDash will waive the delivery fee.

Suggested retail price for the Impossible Whopper is $5.59, which also puts the burger at a lower price point than many of the other fast food chains slinging Impossible products.

While the Impossible Whopper may be made entirely of plants, it’s not much healthier than eating a regular burger. The patties, made of water, soy protein, coconut oil, sunflower oil and leghemoglobin (that’s the company’s secret ingredient) aren’t designed to be healthier option than a burger — they’re just designed to be a more environmentally conscious replacement for beef.

Impossible Foods’ recent wins come as its chief rival, Beyond Meat, is raking in piles of cash as a publicly traded company and building up a sizable war chest to conduct research and development for new products.

Impossible Foods has raised nearly $700 million to date as a private company. Its backers include  Khosla Ventures,  Bill Gates, Google Ventures, Horizons Ventures, UBS, Viking Global Investors, Temasek, Sailing Capital and Open Philanthropy Project.

 


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Impossible Foods goes to the grocery store

20:18 | 31 July

After receiving approval from the Food and Drug Administration, Impossible Foods has cleared the last regulatory hurdle it faced to rolling out in grocery stores.

The company is targeting a September release of Impossible products on grocery store shelves, joining its competitor Beyond Meat on grocery store shelves.

The news comes as the company said it inked a major supply agreement with the OSI Group, a food processing company to increase the availability of its Impossible Burger.

Impossible Foods has been facing shortages of its product, which it can’t make fast enough to meet growing customer demand.

The supply constraints have been especially acute as the company inks more deals with fast food vendors like Burger King, White Castle, and Qdoba to supply its Impossible protein patty and ground meal to a growing number of outlets.

Impossible Foods products are now served in over 10,000 locations around the world.

Earlier this year, the company hired Dennis Woodside and Sheetal Shah to scale up its manufacturing operations and help manage its growth into international markets. The company began selling its product in Singapore earlier this summer.

May not only saw new executives joining the Impossible team, but a new capital infusion as well. Impossible Foods picked up $300 million in financing from investors including Khosla Ventures, Bill Gates, Google Ventures, Horizons Ventures, UBS, Viking Global Investors, Temasek, Sailing Capital, and Open Philanthropy Project.

With the new FDA approval, Impossible Foods will now be able to go head to head with its chief rival, Beyond Meat. The regulatory approval will also help to dispel questions that have swirled around the safety of its innovative soy leghemoglobin that have persisted since the company began its expansion across the U.S.

Last July, the company received a no-questions letter from the FDA, which confirmed that the company’s heme was safe to eat, according to a panel of food-safety experts.

The remaining obstacle for the company, was whether or not the company’s “heme” could be considered a color additive. That approval — the use of heme as a color additive — is what the FDA announced today.

“We’ve been engaging with the FDA for half a decade to ensure that we are completely compliant with all food-safety regulations—for the Impossible Burger and for future products and sales channels,” said Impossible Foods Chief Legal Officer Dana Wagner. “We have deep respect for the FDA as champion of US food safety, and we’ve always gone above and beyond to comply with every food-safety regulation and to provide maximum transparency about our ingredients so that our customers can have 100% confidence in our product.”

 


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SoundCloud buys artist distribution platform Repost Network

11:09 | 28 May

The past year has seen Spotify embark on a series of acquisitions to beef up its service, particularly on podcast content. Now it is the turn of SoundCloud, another European music startup — albeit one that had lost its way in recent years — to go deal-making: the Berlin-based company has picked up Repost Network, a service that helps artists get the most out of SoundCloud.

The deal is undisclosed and it actually was announced last week, although it was not widely reported — perhaps an anecdotal sign of SoundCloud’s position as a relative outsider in today’s streaming market.

Once a pioneer of online distribution for artists, it has watched Sweden-headquartered Spotify takes its service global with a total audience of over 200 million monthly listeners. The competition includes services from Apple and Google as well as the likes of Pandora, Deezer and Jay-Z-owned Tidal.

Soundcloud had its come-to-Jesus-moment some 18 months ago when it raised a $169.5 million Series F fund led by New York investment bank Raine Group and Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund Temasek.

That deal, announced in August 2017, was very much kiss-of-life that saved SoundCloud from bankruptcy — just a month earlier, it laid off 40 percent of its staff to slash costs. The investment also saw a change at the top as former Vimeo CEO Kerry Trainor replaced co-founder Alex Ljung as CEO. The new money took SoundCloud to nearly $470 million raised, and the pre-money valuation was said to be $150 million — down from a previous of high of $700 million from previous rounds.

Still, things have progressed enough for this acquisition, which is SoundCloud’s second ever. The company said the purchase will enable its top artists to access Repost Network’s tools, which include streaming distribution, analytics dashboards and content protection.

That restructuring, painful as it was, looks to have put the focus on the fundamentals. Filings from the company indicate that its revenue grew 80 percent year-on-year to reach €90.7 million ($102 million) in 2017, while losses narrowed by 27 percent to reach €51.4 million, or $58 million. Those results are from the beginning of Trainor’s tenure, we’ll have to wait on its newest filings to get a clearer picture of how things are going.

SoundCloud’s first acquisition was back in 2012 when it paid $10 million purchase of Instinctiv, a music management startup.

 


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Food delivery startup Dahmakan eats up $5M for expansion in Southeast Asia

05:00 | 22 May

It’s harvest season for Southeast Asia’s full-stack food delivery startups. Following on from Singapore’s Grain raising $10 million, so Malaysia-based Dahmakan today announced a $5 million financing round of its own.

The money takes the startup to $10 million raised to date — its last round as $2.6 million last year — and it comes via new investors U.S-based Partech Partners and China’s UpHonest Capital and existing backers Y-Combinator, Atami Capital and the former CEO of Nestlé who was an angel investor. The round was closed earlier this year but is now being announced alongside this expansion play.

It’s been a busy couple of years for the company, which was founded in 2015 by former execs from Rocket Internet’s FoodPanda service. Dahmakan — which means “Have you eaten?” in Malay — graduated Y Combinator in 2017 and it expanded to Thailand last year through an acquisition, so what’s on the menu for 2019?

It is going all in on ‘cloud kitchen’ model of using unwanted retail space to cook up meals specifically for digital orders, which is entirely its business since it handles all processes in house rather than through a marketplace model.

Already, in its home town of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Dahmakan has introduced ‘satellite’ hubs that will allow it to serve customers located in different parts of the city more efficiently. The service already fares better than rivals like FoodPanda, Grab Food and (in Thailand) GoJek’s GetFood service because customers order ahead of time from a fixed menu with scheduled delivery times, but there’s room to do better and more.

“The way that we are thinking about it is that we are 18 months ahead of the competition in terms of the cloud kitchen model. Most are only starting to build out clusters of mini kitchens (150sqft) or so without leveraging too much AI in terms of product development, procurement or automation in machinery,” Dahmakan COO and co-founder Jessica Li told TechCrunch.

“What we’ve figured out is how to scale food production for thousands of deliveries while maintaining quality and keeping costs at 30 percent below comparable restaurant prices,” she added, explaining that the company plans to add “new brands and new products” using the satellite hub approach.

A serving of Ayam Penyet, Indonesian smashed chicken

Dahmakan is looking to extend its reach in Southeast Asia, too.

Li said the immediate priority is domestic growth in Malaysia with the service set to expand in Penang and Johor Bharu during the third quarter of this year. Beyond that, she revealed that Dahmakan plans to move into Singapore and Indonesia before the end of 2019.

Food delivery is quickly becoming the new ride-hailing war in Southeast Asia as Grab and Go-Jek, which have raised the most money in the region, pour capital into space. Quite why they are doing so isn’t entirely clear. Food could be a channel for loyalty (if such a thing can exist in incentive-led verticals) and user engagement for ride-hailing or other parts of their so-called “super app” services, but, either way, it is certainly distorting the market by flooding users with promotions.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing for startups like Dahmakan and Grain which have grown in a more sustainable and responsible manner. They benefit from more people using food delivery in general, while they may also become attractive acquisition targets in the future.

Like Grain, Dahmakan puts a focus on healthy eating, which stands in contrast to the typical junk food orders that others in the space serve through their marketplace of restaurants. That certainly helps them stand out among certain audiences, and it’ll be interesting to see what new products and brands that Dahmakan is hatching to capitalize on the flood of attention food delivery is seeing..

This is certainly only the start. A Google-Temasek report on Southeast Asia published last year forecasts that the region’s food delivery market will grow from an estimated $2 million last year to $8 billion in 2025. That four-fold prediction is larger than the growth forecast for ride-hailing, although the latter is larger.

“That’s faster than any other region even China,” Li said.

A report from Google and Temasek predicts huge growth for ride-hailing and food delivery services in Southeast Asia

 


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GetYourGuide picks up $484M, passes 25M tickets sold through its tourism activity app

16:05 | 16 May

As we swing into the summer tourist season, a company poised to capitalise on that has raised a huge round of funding. GetYourGuide — a Berlin startup that has built a popular marketplace for people to discover and book sightseeing tours, tickets for attractions and other experiences around the world — is today announcing that it has picked up $484 million, a Series E round of funding that will catapult its valuation above the $1 billion mark.

The funding is a milestone for a couple of reasons. GetYourGuide says it is the highest-ever round of funding for a company in the area of “travel experiences” (tours and other activities) — a market estimated to be worth $150 billion this year and rising to $183 billion in 2020. And this Series E is also one of the biggest-ever growth rounds for any European startup, period.

The company has now sold 25 million tickets for tours, attractions and other experiences with a current catalog of some 50,000 experiences on offer. That’s a sign of strong growth: in 2017 it sold 10 million tickets, and its last reported catalog number was 35,000. It will be using the funding to build more of its own “Originals” tour experiences — which have now passed the 40,000 tickets sold mark — as well as to build up more activities in Asia and the US, two fast-growing markets for the startup.

The funding is being led by Softbank, via its Vision Fund, with Temasek, Lakestar, Heartcore Capital (formerly Sunstone Capital), and Swisscanto Invest among others also participating. (Swisscanto is part of Zürcher Kantonalbank: GetYourGuide was originally founded in Zurich, where the founders had studied, and it still runs some R&D operations there.) The company has now raised well over $600 million.

It’s notable how Softbank — which is on the hunt for interesting opportunities to invest its $100 billion superfund — has been stepping up a gear in Germany to tap into some of bigger tech players that have emerged out of that market, which today is the biggest in Europe. Other big plays have included €460 million into Auto1 and €900 million into payments provider Wirecard. Other companies it has backed, such as hotel company Oyo out of India, is using its funding to break into Europe (and buy German companies in the process).

There had been reports over the last several months that GetYouGuide was in the process of raising anywhere between $300 million and more than $500 million. In late April, we were told by sources that the round hadn’t yet closed, and that numbers published in the media up to then had been inaccurate, even as we nailed down that Softbank was indeed involved in the round.

The valuation in this round is not being disclosed, but CEO Johannes Reck (who co-founded the app with Martin Sieber, Pascal Mathis, Tobias Rein and Tao Tao) said in an interview with TechCrunch that it was definitely “now a unicorn” — meaning that its valuation had passed the $1 billion mark. For additional context, the rumor last month was that GetYourGuide’s valuation is now up to €1.6 billion ($1.78 billion) but I have not been able to get firm confirmation of that number.

From hip replacements to hipsters

GetYourGuide’s growth — and investor interesting in it — has closely followed the rise of new platforms like Airbnb that have changed the face of how we travel, and what we do when we get somewhere. We have moved far beyond the days of visiting a travel agent that books everything, from flight to hotel to all your activities, as you sit on the other side of a desk from her or him. Now with the tap of a finger or the click of a mouse, we have thousands of choices.

Within that, GetYourGuide thinks that it has jumped on an interesting opportunity to rethink the activity aspect of tourism. Tour packages and other highly organized travel experiences are often associated with older people, or those with families — essentially people who need more predictability when they are not at home.

Reck noted that the earliest users of GetYourGuide in 2010 were precisely those people — or at least those who were more inclined to use digital platforms to begin with: the demographic, he said, was 40-50 year olds, most likely travelling with family.

That is one thing that has really started to change, in no small part because of GetYourGuide itself. Making the experience of booking experiences mobile-friendly, GetYourGuide has played into the culture of doing and showing that has propelled the rise of social media.

“They want to do things, to have something to post on Instagram,” he said. The average age of a GetYourGuide user now, he said, is 25-40.

This has even evolved into what GetYourGuide provides to users. “At some point, staff in Asia had the idea of crafting a ‘GetYourGuide Instagram Tour of Bali.’ That really took off, and now this is the number-one tour booked in the region.” It has since expanded the concept to 50 destinations.

That has also led GetYourGuide to conclude it has a ways to go to continue developing its model and scope further, expanding into longer sightseeing excursions, beyond one or two-hour tours into day trips and even overnight exeperiences.

As it continues to play around with some of these offerings, it’s also increasingly taking a more direct role in the branding and the provision of the content. Initially, all tickets and tours were posted on GetYourGuide by third parties. Now, GetYourGuide is building more of what Reck calls “Originals” — which it might develop in partnership with others but ultimately handles as its own first-party content. (That Instagram tour was one of those Originals.)

It’s notable that others are closing in on the same “experiences” model that forms the core of GetYourGuide’s business: Airbnb, to diversify how it makes revenues and to extend its touchpoints with guests beyond basic accommodation bookings, has also started to sell experiences. Meanwhile, daily deals pioneer Groupon has also positioned itself as a destination for purchasing “experiences” as a way of offset declines in other areas of its business. Similarly, travel portals that sell plane tickets regularly default to pushing more activities on you.

Reck pointed out that the area of business where GetYourGuide is active is becoming increasingly attractive to these players as other aspects of the travel industry become increasingly commoditised. Indeed, you can visit dozens of sites to compare pricing on plane tickets, and if you are flexible, pick up even more of a bargain at the last minute. And the rise of multiple Airbnb-style platforms offering private accommodation has made competition among those supplying those platforms — as well as hotels — increasingly fierce.

 


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InnoVen Capital, one of Asia’s most prominent venture debt firms, adds $200M more to its kitty

14:26 | 14 May

Founders might not believe it, but managing a venture capital firm isn’t all that dissimilar to a startup. Case in point today: InnoVen Capital, one of Asia’s most prominent venture debt firms, has pulled in $200 million in new money to continue its expansion in the region.

The money comes from InnoVen’s two shareholders — Singapore sovereign fund Temasek and Singapore’s UOB — each of which has added $100 million in additional firepower for the fund, which is popularising debt-based financing within Asia’s startup ecosystems.

The organization came to be in 2015 when Temasek acquired the Indian ‘branch’ of Silicon Valley Bank expressly to offer differentiated financing to startups. The spinout was named InnoVen and it quickly expanded beyond India with the opening of an office in Singapore in 2016 and then an outpost in Beijing in early 2018.

The firm operates without a specific fund size unlike many other investors, but already there are some numbers to indicate its growing role in Asia.

That regional play is still in its early days, but already the business has deployed over $500 million in financing to more than 200 companies, according to Ashish Sharma, the former head of GE Capital India who leads InnoVen’s India business.

The fund operates at Series A and beyond and Sharma told TechCrunch that its investment levels have sped up over the past two to three years, thanks in particular to the addition of offices in Southeast Asia and China.

Recent deals from the fund have included investments in Moglix, Carsome, RedDoorz, Awfis and even a stealthy startup, Indonesia-based logistics venture Kargo which included debt within its first round of funding. Already, the Chinese arm has accrued 30 deals in a little over a year, and some of the biggest names backed across the region include Vision Fund company OYO and Naspers investments Swiggy, which recently raised $1 billion, and Byju’s.

Yet despite InnoVen’s increased profile, there remains confusion on the role of venture debt in Asia. Anecdotally, I’ve heard many misguided opinions from so-called venture capital-focused reporters — and not just in Asia — who see debt-based investment as a ‘last resort’ for companies. Its addition in a round is a tell-tell sign of a struggling business, they claim.

That’s completely wrong, according to InnoVen’s Sharma.

“It doesn’t come in from a position of weakness, that’s a big misconception,” he explained to TechCrunch in an interview. “In fact, venture debt is not available to companies which are in trouble. Most companies that raise venture debt do so from a position of strength.”

“They’ll say ‘We’re raising $100 million, let’s lay in $20 million of venture debt to optimize the dilution,'” Sharma added. “We’ve helped some very large companies use venture debt to get to the next level.”

Ashish Sharma leads InnoVen Capital’s business in India [Image via InnoVen Capital]

Ambitious growth story? Check.

A business that’s misunderstood by many? Check.

Who said running a VC firm isn’t like running a startup?

 


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