Despite COVID-19, Korean traveltech unicorn Yanolja expects robust 2020 growth

Photo from Yanolja's social media page.

South Korea-based travel technology unicorn Yanolja said it will continue to build a robust and sustainable growth momentum this year by further investing in its R&D capacity.

The company made an optimistic forecast for this year even as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is battering the global travel and hospitality industries.

Yanolja posted a 78.8 per cent year-on-year growth in total revenue from its domestic and global businesses last year. The company said it achieved $260 million – $234 million from Korea and $26 million from overseas – in revenue in 2019, keeping its high annual growth rate of over 70 per cent for the past five years.

“Such an upturn in the overall performance is attributed to the strong growth of the accommodation, leisure, and activity booking platform business in and outside of Korea,” the unicorn startup said.

A spokesperson for Yanolja told DealStreetAsia that the coronavirus pandemic has very limited impact on the business and that the company’s figures are as usual.

“But as it is an important global issue, we are paying close attention to the situation and taking measures to minimize the impacts on the leisure industry caused by the disease,” the spokesperson said.

The firm started as an online search portal for love hotels, guest house rooms, pensions, and small hotels in 2005 with just $42,000.

Aside from the performance of Yanolja’s hotel franchise business, which advanced into the Southeast Asian market, global hotel solutions businesses acquired or invested by Yanolja, including eZee Technosys and ZEN Rooms, also contributed to the company’s revenue growth.

Yanolja aims to achieve an over two-fold growth of its global business to generate 50 per cent of its total revenue in the next five years.

Yanolja joined the unicorn rank in June after securing $200 million in its Series D funding round backed by Singapore sovereign wealth fund GIC Pte Ltd and US firm Booking Holdings.

Yanolja raised $8.5 million in its venture round in 2015, led by South Korean investor Partners Investment. In 2017, the firm raised $51 million in private equity from Sky Lake Investment, an alternative asset management firm based in Seoul.

In December, Lee Su-jin, CEO of Yanolja, told reporters that the company is considering listing in Seoul and its Singapore operations abroad over the next two years.

Singapore Reporter/s

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

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  • 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. 
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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.