Malaysian Travel Startup Secures Us$ 0.4 Million From China Accelerator In PreSeed Round
Malaysian travel startup, Tourplus, a company that provides personalized itineraries linking travelers to local guides, announced last week that it had raised a US$400,000 pre-seed round from a leading China based accelerator, SOSV Chinaaccelerator and a Chinese angel investor in the travel space with plans to expand his business into Malaysia.
The pre-seed funding was actually raised months earlier when Tourplus was accepted by SOSV into its accelerator programme and received a US$150,000 investment from the accelerator. During the three month programme, Tourplus was exposed to some angel investors, one of whom invested US$250,000.
According to Rickson Goh, founder and CEO of Tourplus, a 9 month company, , this amount is only for the pre-seed phase and that he has already launched his seed round process on Fri, Nov 29.
“I am looking to raise US$1 million.” he told Thailand Startup
News. Funds from the current and next round will be used for technology, talent and marketing.
Eyeing on Malaysia’s Visit 2020 Year and the expected influx of 30 million tourists, Goh is aiming to attract 3 million inbound travels to Southeast Asia (SEA), giving him the momentum to go on and raise even more money to further accelerate the business that he started in 2015 and had to pivot in 2017 thanks to customer driven insight.
He added, “When I launched Tourplus, it was an itinerary sharing app like Google Trips where travelers share their itinerary for others to use or customize to their own needs. The business model was ad revenue and permission based leads.”
It was initially a failure and it didn’t really take off and the model wasn’t right but during those tough two years Goh began to notice, to his surprise, that customers were asking how they could get around to the spots they wanted to visit. This was a period when both Grab and Uber were already widespread in many Southeast Asian cities. But customers weren’t just asking for transport, they also wanted guides who could show them around, telling local stories and sharing cultural practices and history.
He further commented, “I realized that it was not just transport but having guides as well that was a problem for travelers.”
He was alone in terms of who struggled with the itinerary based business, Google Trips was a trip planner app launched in Sept 2016 that Google shut down in Aug 2019. The same functionalities however continue to be available at google.com/travel.
In 2017, he initially focused on a web model with travelers making inquiries through a website and being matched with guides and trips there. However, it was inevitable that a more market friendly mobile app had to be introduced and this happened in July 2018 with a tour guide focused app.
He said, “It’s just like your Grab app for drivers,” The app doesn’t just let drivers get bookings for guide services but also for other services such as airport pickups. And it is this combination of driver/guide that Goh describes as the key service Tourplus offers. “Our main product is the day/multiday tours targeted at families and friends travelling in groups of more than four people where they can book larger vehicles for their tours which ends up being cheaper as well.”
Key challenge, not unusual for any startup
, is to raise the profile, visibility and market familiarity towards Tourplus. “We need to encourage more downloads of our app,” he says. To this end, he introduced the consumer version of Tourplus last month, which he claims has already attracted over 10,000 downloads. Here he is hoping that the flat RM60 airport transfer, that is below cost and offered only through the app, will help him get more users. “We can try to upsell them once they are our users,” he says.
Tourplus has an estimated 2,400 guides on the app, 60% are from Malaysia, with between 15% to 20% in Indonesia and 10% in Thailand. The rest are spread among the other SEA countries. In terms of customers, 40% are Indonesian with Filipinos and Australians making up between 5% to 10% each estimates Goh who also claims Tourplus to be the only travel app that connects driver-guides with travelers in SEA.