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Vision Fund invests $1.7 bln in local travel firm Yanolja

Vision Fund invests $1.7 bln in local travel firm Yanolja

Posted July. 16, 2021 07:33,   

Updated July. 16, 2021 07:33


Yanolja, a South Korean accommodation reservation platform, hit the jackpot of receiving investment worth 1.7 billion U.S. dollars from Vision Fund, an investment vehicle run by SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son. Yanolja is expected to compete with global rivals on the back of enhanced IT capacity.

On Thursday, Yanolja announced that it has secured 1.7 billion dollars in investment from Vision Fund II. It was twice as much as the estimated amount of investment that stood at around 900 million dollars. This is the second biggest amount of investment after Coupang, which earned 3 billion dollars (approximately 3.44 trillion won) from SoftBank in April this year.

While specific numbers have yet to be disclosed, industry experts say Vision Fund’s investment in Yanolja is a hallmark of Decacorn (referring to companies worth more than 10 billion dollars). It is estimated SoftBank has about a 20% stake in Yanolja. Considering that Yanolja was recognized to have around 1 billion dollars of company value when it secured 200 billion won in investment from Singaporean sovereign wealth fund in 2019, its value has jumped 10-fold over the past two years.

Yanolja is a unified platform that offers a full range of leisure services from accommodation, transportation, travel programs and restaurant reservations. The company was founded in 2007 by CEO Lee Su-jin, with around 15 million customers in South Korea.

Despite the COVID-19-induced travel restrictions, Yanolja fared quite well last year, posting 192 billion won in sales and 16.1 billion won in operating profits. “We were almost the only player in the global travel platform market that posted net growth and improved operating profit last year,” an official from Yanolja said.

CEO Lee Su-jin’s “rags-to-riches” story is also being put in the limelight again thanks to the news of Vision Fund’s investment. Despite his poor background, Lee founded Yanolja, tapping into his experiences of working as a motel clerk and leading the innovation of travel/leisure platform market. It is projected that Yanolja will embark on foreign business expansion in earnest once the coronavirus blows over. Yanolja is expected to compete with other global OTAs (Online Travel Agency) including Airbnb and Booking.com.

Seong-Mo Kim mo@donga.com