HomeAway Buys Singapore Startup Travelmob To Enter Asia-Pacific

Nasdaq-listed vacation rental site HomeAway has acquired a Singapore-based startup Travelmob, allowing it to compete directly with Airbnb in the Asia-Pacific region.

HomeAway announced today that it acquired a majority stake of 63 percent in Travelmob in an undisclosed, all-cash deal. For now, Travelmob’s team of 16 will continue to operate as an independent brand out of Singapore.

HomeAway will also pump in $2 million in its new Travelmob arm to help grow its presence in the Asia-Pacific.

The deal comes at a time when some of the big players in the segment are holding off on rapid expansion plans abroad, and choosing to partner with local firms. Airbnb just reorganized its international team to focus more on customer support, and is sending more staff out to the field to make connections. This represents a shift away from the land-grab mode it was in in 2011, when it was fresh off its $112 million funding injection and was planning aggressive expansion.

Competition in Asia is fierce as well among local players. Rocket Internet reportedly just shut down its Airbnb-clone in China, Airizu, according to Sina Tech. It competes with Chinese rivals, XiaozhuMayi and Tujia.

Local partnerships are a far lower risk choice to enter a market, compared with expansion. HomeAway’s been adopting this stance for a while now; it partnered with Tujia in December last year to have Tujia carry HomeAway’s listings on its site, translated into Chinese. HomeAway also has a minority stake in Tujia from its first round of funding, so we wouldn’t rule out an acquisition down the road.

And in March, it first partnered Travelmob to cross-list Travelmob’s 14,000 rentals in Asia on HomeAway’s site. That deal must have gone well enough for HomeAway to want to cement that relationship. HomeAway itself has 740,000 listings across 171 countries.

Brian Sharples, chief executive officer of HomeAway said that the company is eyeing the estimated 100 million people in Asia which will enter the middle class in the next few years. “Asia will have an increasing influence over the world’s economic growth. We believe this will have significant implications for not only travel but also for the purchase of homes, both of which drive HomeAway’s growth,” he said.

Travelmob’s listings cross over into the Airbnb-style rentals. In February this year, it started allowing home owners a way to advertise last-minute discounts on their properties, and has been featuring its slightly off-the-beaten-path listings such as a houseboat in Kerala or an island in the Philippines.

Airbnb, too, has been pushing into the region. Last year, it expanded operations in Sydney, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia, and told TNW it had plans to increase its 20,000 listings in the region to 2 million in Asia.

Travelmob’s just raised $1 million in seed funding from Singapore VC, Jungle Ventures in September last year. One of the startup’s co-founders, Turochas Fuad, was previously managing director for Skype Asia, and the head of Yahoo’s Southeast Asian mobile business prior to that.

He said the decision to get acquired came in just as the company was planning its Asia-Pacific expansion. “The extra funding would come in handy for that,” Fuad said.

HomeAway filed for IPO in 2011, which raised $216 million for the company in the offering. It’s also raised close to half a billion dollars in venture funding in 2008, and was valued at about $1.4 billion in 2010.