Unique vision! This Korean is married by a couple hotel and is now worth $1 billion.

Couplehotel unicorn

qianzhanwang· 2019-11-07 09:50:38

You definitely agree that a successful entrepreneur needs passion - and This is something that Su Jin Lee, the founder of online accommodation booking platform Yanolja, is definitely not missing.

The couple hotel is a short-term accommodation method that pays by the hour. In Korean, Yanolja means "Hey, let's play."

This couple hotel originated in Japan, but was once criticized in this conservative country and has a bad reputation. South Korean entrepreneur Su Jin Lee founded Yanolja in Seoul in 2007 to revitalize the industry. Today, Yanolja has 32 million downloads and a large number of loyal users of millennials, valued at $1 billion.

Before launching Yanolja as a mature booking site in 2007, Lee created an online advertising platform that would allow hotel owners to attract new guests.

He also launched the Yanolja renovation service to help couple hotels upgrade and target new customers. The most important of these are the two groups: young couples and price-sensitive travelers seeking short-term accommodation.

In South Korea, it is a typical phenomenon for young people to live at home before marriage, which makes couple hotels a great choice to escape from their parents.

At the same time, the booming tourism industry has made South Korea one of the largest tourism markets in Asia.

"Lee will consider what is a pain point that no one understands or discovers," said Jong Yoon Kim, CEO of Yanolja. He has worked for McKinsey, 3M and Google.

Becoming a "unicorn"

Lee’s vision is unique. Initially, Yanolja was just an online search portal for Lovers Hotel, but after becoming one of the country's leading hotel booking sites, he expanded his business to regular hotels and guest houses, as well as Yanolja's own branded hotels.

Su Jin Lee tries to eliminate people’s negative impressions of this service through a bright, modern franchise couple hotel.

Today, this platform for making money from commissions has grown at an annual rate of 70% and has more than 20,000 partners in Korea. It is almost half of the country's approximately 46,000 registered hotels and guest houses, with annual revenues exceeding $3.6 billion.

It turns out that this growth has also attracted investors.

So far, the company has raised nearly $242 million from investors such as Singapore's sovereign wealth fund GIC and US company Booking Holdings.

The company received a $1 billion valuation in the latest round of financing in June 2019, becoming the 8th "unicorn" in Korea, joining travel technologies such as Airbnb, OYO and Klook. The ranks of the platform.

According to forward-looking economists, data from market research firm Euromonitor International showed that online travel sales in South Korea almost doubled to $21.8 billion in the five years to 2018. Among them, the sales of mobile channels accounted for nearly half of the total sales, which ranked third in the world.

" I think the reason we can become a unicorn is that Yanolja is the best hotel in Korea. But I think this is just the beginning, so we are trying to be the number one in the world," Kim said.

This means extending to other hotel services areas, including casual bookings and experiences. The company has also developed its own range of software services to help partner hotels automate the check-in process and other services. Possible technologies include artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, and so on.

" The hotel is one of the projects, but we are pursuing a holistic solution for the user," Kim said. "Yanolja provides services such as dining, events, leisure tickets, transportation, etc."

In addition, Yanolja has a core goal: an initial public offering (IPO).

The company said that this public honor will mark a comprehensive transformation of the industry that has been swayed.

" I don't know when it's the best time, because we need to consider market conditions, etc., but we need to be ready for the IPO," Kim said. He has stated that the plan is to IPO as early as 2022.

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