SoftBank leads $484 million investment in online travel start-up GetYourGuide

Key Points
  • GetYourGuide raises $484 million in a funding round led by SoftBank's Vision Fund.
  • It says it's now worth more than $1 billion but isn't commenting on its exact valuation.
  • The firm says it's more focused on travel "experiences" than "commodity items" like flights and hotels.
Staff of online travel start-up 'GetYourGuide' working at the company's headquarters in Berlin.
Jens Kalaene | picture alliance | Getty Images

German online travel start-up GetYourGuide has raised $484 million in an investment led by SoftBank's $100 billion Vision Fund.

The company, which lets people book tickets for tours and other activities abroad, said Thursday that it will spend the fresh cash on expanding further internationally and adding more recreation options to its platform.

It says it's now a unicorn company, with a valuation crossing $1 billion, although it declined to comment on its exact market value. That sees it join the ranks of firms like Germany's N26 and Britain's Deliveroo as it enters into Europe's unicorn club.

Based in Berlin, GetYourGuide is a little different to more commonly-used travel sites. Whereas platforms like TripAdvisor and Expedia show customers price comparisons for hotel bookings and flight fares, GetYourGuide only lists things for holidaymakers to do upon arrival.

GetYourGuide CEO Johannes Reck says the firm is tapping into the trend of consumers caring more about in-destination "experiences" rather than "commodity items" like flights and hotels. It has sold more than 25 million tickets to users across 170 countries since it was founded in 2009.

"With this fundraise we can suddenly play in the big leagues of the worldwide leading travel companies, and we can invest with a time horizon of not one or two years but 10 or 20," Reck told CNBC in a phone interview.

Reck added that his start-up is looking to offer more vacation activities to its app, highlighting events, music and transportation as potential areas it could explore.

"There's so much that we can still do on GetYourGuide beyond the core product set that we have right now," he said.

SoftBank backing

Ted Fike, a partner at the Vision Fund, will join GetYourGuide's board following the investment, the firm said.

Japan's SoftBank has become a force to be reckoned with in Silicon Valley and beyond with its $100 billion tech fund. Other portfolio companies include recently-listed Uber and soon-to-be-public companies Slack and WeWork.

However, a disappointing market debut from Uber last year has weighed on the group's share price in recent days. The stock fell on Monday as investors digested the lukewarm reception from the ride-hailing giant's highly-anticipated initial public offering.

While GetYourGuide doesn't see itself seeking a stock market listing anytime soon, Reck said it will look to do an IPO "when the time is right."

The company's latest round of funding was also backed by Singapore state investor Temasek and notable venture capital firm Lakestar, an early investor in companies like Facebook and Spotify. The news follows much speculation over the deal, after recent media reports said the firm was raising money.

In addition to the fundraising, GetYourGuide also made two key new executive hires. Nils Chrestin, former chief financial officer at the online fashion retailer Global Fashion Group, will take on the role of finance chief at GetYourGuide, while former Instagram exec Ameet Ranadive is joining as chief product officer.