Kees Koolen
getyourguide

GetYourGuide Gets $4.5M Series A Expansion, From Ex-Booking.com CEO (& Others), To Help It Scale Globally

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Just over a year ago holiday attractions booking startup GetYourGuide closed a $14 million Series A funding round. Today it’s bulked up that round with a further $4.5 million in what it’s describing as strategic expansion funding — owing to two of the new investors the round brings on board.

The new funding is led by Kees Koolen, former CEO of online hotel reservation agency Booking.com and also (since 2012) an advisor to Uber on scaling globally; with Fritz Demopoulos, founder and former CEO of Chinese-language travel info portal Qunar.com, also joining in.

Both Koolen and Demopoulos are now serving as independent directors on GetYourGuide’s board — the latter joined the board earlier this month but is also now co-investing.

Nordic-based VC firm, Sunstone Capital, also participated in the capital increase.

Discussing the new financing, GetYourGuide CEO Johannes Reck told TechCrunch he had been trying to catch Koolen’s eye for a long time. “To be honest this is the biggest milestone in the history of the company,” he said of bagging Koolen as an investor.

“Kees has gigantic knowledge. The model of how GetYourGuide operates is, to a large degree, similar to how Booking.com operates. So his operational knowledge is also very helpful. We’re extremely happy to have him on board,” he added.

“The company is — and has been over the time that we’ve got to know each other and started to work together — tremendously benefitting from their [Koolen's and Demopoulos'] knowledge.”

GetYourGuide, a Berlin-based startup, has been ramping up its efforts to push beyond its home market of Europe — rolling out mobile apps in the U.S. back in November, for instance. Its ambition is to become a global player in the holiday attractions booking space — as people switch from the legacy offline booking route to looking online for stuff to do when they’re away.

So the challenge for the business is scaling to support that global goal — hence the importance of bringing on board investors such as Koolen who bring experience of building global online booking companies.

“For us scaling the business globally is the ambition — and that’s where this money is going,” said Reck. “It’s really taking our business model, which has been very successful in a couple of markets, and scaling it to a lot more destinations and countries around the world.”

That business model involves aggregating holiday attractions on a platform that offers additinal consumer value, beyond choice — such as best price guarantees, fast lane access to museums and last minute availability for mobile bookings — says Reck.

For his part Koolen said he was attracted to invest in GetYourGuide because of what he views as a solid business model and strong potential to scale up.

“GetYourGuide has a very clear consumer proposition now, it’s very clear why you as a consumer should book with this company,” he told TechCrunch. 

“If you can create this kind of curve to make some money on this business model then it’s just a matter of scaling such a company worldwide because travel, more or less, is the same everywhere in the world, so you just need to find a good business model.”

“The big challenge now is to really scale GetYourGuide to a worldwide company,” he added.

The startup has built up a global network of activity suppliers who can upload products to flesh out its content. These suppliers also receive and manage their bookings and payments through GetYourGuide’s centralized system — making it a sort of OpenTable for holiday events booking.

On the user side, travellers can book attractions via the web or through its mobile apps — the latter create mobile vouchers so they don’t need to print tickets. GetYourGuide takes a cut of all bookings (the percentage of which varies by market).

Discussing the general challenge of scaling a business from startup beginnings to a global company, Koolen said the key is around how your organise your workforce.

“A large part of that is how you organise your staff — how you train and develop your staff. And I think that’s probably always new to startup companies. And if you bring that in quite early it will help you a lot,” he said. “Then if you get bigger you can still grow, because a lot of companies if they don’t think about how they want to grow the organisation in the future they get stuck somewhere and then they have to get out of that again which can really harm them.

“I think that’s the big thing we’re going to bring to this company, to help them to take all the necessary steps in time and in the right way.”