‘Booking.com for students’ raises $60M

Student.com, an online booking platform to help international students find accommodation in other countries, has raised $60 million from investors including Spotify's founders and the fund of one of Asia's richest men.

The investment was led by VY Capital, with Horizons Ventures – the venture capital fund of Li Ka-Shing, the Hong Kong tycoon – also participating. Spotify founders Daniel Ek and Martin Lorentzon and Hugo Barra, Xiaomi's vice president of international, were also involved.

Student.com operates a Booking.com-style service, specifically for university accommodation. The start-up expects to have properties in 426 cities globally in close proximity to over 1,000 universities.

Founder Luke Nolan told CNBC that the money would be used to market Student.com to grow its user base and the star-studded investor lineup was chosen as the participants have all overcome challenges in the markets the start-up is trying to expand into.

"The reason we raised the money is to fund the platform, growth in terms of marketing, building the tech platform and growing people," Nolan told CNBC by phone.

"We wanted to find investor to help us grow the business. They are international investors. Every single one of them had challenges in exactly the same market we are operating in from China to India. Those challenges are the ones they have been through time and time again."

Nolan added that Latin America, South Africa, Singapore and Malaysia are becoming increasingly important destinations for the company.

The company did $110 million worth of bookings last year but did not disclose the 2014 figure, adding that growth has been "significant" and "more than doubling" every year. Nolan said that every landlord has a contractual relationship with Student.com to ensure additional security.

But Student.com is not alone in what is becoming a hotly-contested space. Last year, rival Comfy secured $1.25 million in funding while another competitor called Uniplaces received backing to the tune of $24 million.

Nolan moved to China in 2005 where he met co-founder Shakil Khan. After seeing the increasing number of Chinese students moving to study abroad and the difficulty they faced, the pair set up Overseas Student Living in 2011, which is now Student.com.

"Imagine you moved from Shanghai to London, you have never been there, you don't know anyone there. Every single time you have an international student moving abroad, you face this challenge," Nolan said.

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