Good to have a war chest in digital economy: Klook co-founder Eric Gnock Fah

Klook co-founder and COO Eric Gnock Fah.

After securing $425 million in two separate Series D rounds, travel booking platform Klook is now focused on growing its presence in the Western markets as well as deepening its footprint in Southeast Asia, according to its co-founder and chief operating officer Eric Gnock Fah.

“In Southeast Asia, we’re just scratching the surface so we do want to deepen our roots here. We’re also currently expanding to Europe and the US – we grew from a team of only three people a year ago, to now 40-50 people in Europe. We’d also like to expand our services – besides tours and attractions, we now offer many more varieties. So we can push on that to cover food, restaurants, events, concerts, and others,” he told DEALSTREETASIA on the sidelines of Wild Digital SEA 2019.

Founded in 2014, Klook offers attractions, tours, and local experiences as well as local transport and railway services around the world. SoftBank Vision Fund had led the startup’s extended Series D round closed this April.

The Hong Kong-based startup was said to have achieved a $1-billion valuation in its first Series D round closed last August, after two other local startups – GOGOVAN and Lalamove hit the milestone.

Gnock Fah hinted there may be collaborations among the unicorn startups within SoftBank’s portfolio companies – something that Singapore-headquartered Grab’s president Ming Maa had noted in the past. SoftBank first invested $250 million into Grab in 2014.

“Fundraising was not about capital, in fact, it was less so for us because we just raised $200 million prior to that SoftBank round. But what really convinced us that it will be a great partnership is that after speaking to the team and Masayoshi Son – understanding what is it that he’s trying to build and the ecosystem which has Grab, Tokopedia and so on. We see how all of these things, in the end, will exist commonly in just one ecosystem,” he said.

In 2018, trip bookings on mobile devices tripled and accounted for over 75 per cent of total bookings. Gnock Fah said the platform has been growing at a triple-digit growth rate and expects Klook to maintain its momentum for the rest of the year.

Interestingly, prior to founding Klook, Gnock Fah had no experience in the travel industry. He served stints as an investment analyst with Atlantis and Morgan Stanley in Hong Kong.

One of his key learnings of being an entrepreneur for close to half a decade is to acknowledge one’s limitations.

“In the first few years, you tend to do everything and anything, you tend to feel like as the platform grows, you want to continue to manage everything. But that’s just not possible. So to be able to scale, you need to be able to set up the right processes with the right people. Knowing your own limitations and getting the right help and getting the talent is very important,” he shared.

Edited excerpts:

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Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.