Yanolja raises $1.7 billion from SoftBank Vision Fund 2

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Yanolja raises $1.7 billion from SoftBank Vision Fund 2

Yanolja CEO Lee Su-jin [YANOLJA]

Yanolja CEO Lee Su-jin [YANOLJA]

 
Yanolja, an online booking company, has received a $1.7 billion investment from SoftBank Vision Fund 2.
 
No details were given about the nature of the investment or the amount of the company that will be owned by the fund, which was formed by Tokyo’s SoftBank.
 
Yanolja, which means “Hey, let’s play” in Korean, runs three businesses: a booking platform, cloud-based hospitality solutions and design.  
 
The company, which was founded in 2005, offers booking services for accommodations, transportation and leisure tickets.
 
Its solutions business helps hospitality companies manage hotels more efficiently and provides customers with information via the cloud. Using the solution, customers can check into a hotel through a link on a mobile app, meaning no key card is required.  
 
It is a No. 1 hospitality solutions provider globally, with more than 30,000 clients in 170 countries, the company reports.   
 
The company also designs a wide range of spaces, from hotels to showrooms, and runs seven subsidiaries focused on technology and hotel management.
 
“The investment will enable Yanolja to scale and continue leading the digital transformation of the global travel and hospitality industry, which is estimated to be $3 trillion,” the company said in a statement.  
 
It said it will use the funding to invest in the development of innovative technologies and to expand its technology offerings in new markets. The company in particular plans to build and operate a more advanced global travel site by upgrading and enhancing its automated solutions through the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and personalized offerings using big data.  
 
“Powered by AI, we believe Yanolja is a leader in transforming the travel and leisure industry in South Korea through its Travel Super App approach,” said Greg Moon, managing partner at SoftBank Investment Advisers, in a statement.  
 
A super app offers a variety of services.  
 
“I am delighted that Yanolja, together with SoftBank Vision Fund 2, can collectively pursue and realize our goal of making the global travel and hospitality markets hyper-connected through technology,” said Lee Su-jin, Yanolja CEO. “We will accelerate digital transformation in this sector as the global leading hospitality tech company and travel super app, by fully leveraging our unique technological capabilities.”  
 
Lee, 44, worked as a love hotel housekeeper before starting Yanolja.
 
He shared his experience of working at the love hotel on an online community, and other people started sharing their experiences and started looking for jobs at love hotels on the community he created. 
 
Lee expanded the website so people can compare different accommodations.  
 
Yanolja started with 13 employees. It now has 1,500 workers. It sales last year totaled 192 billion won ($170 million), up more than 40 percent.  
 
Yanolja reported a 16.1-billion-won operating profit in 2020, its first ever.
 
The figures excluded the earnings of its subsidiaries, which includes eZee Technosys, a hospitality software developer.  
 
Yanolja has not commented publicly, but local media outlets reported that it is seeking to go public in the United States.  
 
Its shares on Seoul Exchange, an exchange for unlisted firms, jumped around three-fold from 30,000-won range in January to 96,700 won on Wednesday.
 
 

BY JIN MIN-JI [jin.minji@joongang.co.kr]
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