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SoftBank leads $480m investment in German activity booker

Deal gives GetYourGuide ‘unicorn’ status as it mulls global expansion

GetYourGuide plans to use the proceeds to increase its global footprint, including in Asia. (photo courtesy of GetYourGuide)

TOKYO -- SoftBank Group's Vision Fund led a $484 million funding round for German activity booker GetYourGuide in a deal that highlights the travel startup's ambition to dominate an emerging segment of the global tourism industry.

Singapore's sovereign wealth fund Temasek Holdings, as well as European players Lakestar, Korelya Capital and Heartcore Capital joined the round, GetYourGuide said Thursday. 

A company spokesperson said the deal minted GetYourGuide's status as a unicorn -- a private company valued at $1 billion or more -- but declined to give a specific figure. 

Founded in 2009, GetYourGuide operates a platform that allows users to book activities like tickets to theme parks and tours as well as transportation. It said it sold over 25 million tickets since it launched, including more than 10 million tickets in 2018. 

The company will use the capital to increase its inventory of activity offerings and on marketing. It also plans to expand its global presence, including in Asia where it already has offices in Hong Kong, Bangkok, Tokyo and Sydney. 

Growth will be the company's priority. "No single company even has a 1% market share [in the activities-booking industry]. If we focused on profitability now, we would frankly lose our lead," the spokesperson said. "We can and we will optimize for profitability, but we have a market to capture first." 

Competition has been intensifying in the $150 billion activities-booking market, a segment of the travel industry not yet dominated by the major online companies like Booking.com.

The Vision Fund is backed by the sovereign wealth funds of Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi and managed by the Japanese conglomerate SoftBank Group. While its biggest bets are in transportation, like U.S. ride-hailing giant Uber Technologies, it has been spending heavily on the tech companies aiming to disrupt the tourism industry.

The fund led a $225 million investment in Hong Kong-based activities-booking app Klook in April. Last year, it led a $1 billion funding round in Indian hotel startup Oyo.

Ted Fike, a partner at SoftBank Investment Advisers, will join GetYourGuide’s board of directors.

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