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SoftBank-backed travel tech startup Yanolja acquires Korean e-commerce company Interpark – TechCrunch

South Korean travel tech startup Yanolja has acquired a 70% stake in a listed South Korean e-commerce pioneer, Interpark, for about $250 million. 

The company plans to use the acquisition to make further inroads into the overseas tourism industry. Interpark offers online travel booking services and international shipping to more than 230 countries, and targets Korean, English, Chinese and Japanese-speaking customers.

Foreign travel tech platforms dominate the international tourism industry, but Yanolja is hoping to compete by scaling up, and building a “super app”, incorporating more of the lifestyle services that Interpark has built over the years alongside Yanolja’s current services, which include booking hotels, cars and related travel experiences. Interpark’s services cover shopping, restaurant reservations, travel tickets, attractions and live performances, a spokesperson at Yanolja told TechCrunch. 

The acquisition comes on the heels of Yanolja raising $1.7 billion from SoftBank Vision Fund 2, in July. The latest investment for Yanolja was Softbank’s second-largest funding in South Korean company after Coupang, which had received about $3 billion from the Japanese VC before eventually going public.   

Yanolja is estimated to be valued at more than $8.4 billion (10 trillion KRW). According to reports, it plans to pursue a dual listing in the U.S. and South Korea around 2023. Despite the huge cloud that has hovered over the travel and tourism industries over the last 20 months, the company has been on a major growth tear. In 2019, Yanolja was valued at over $1 billion after closing a $180 million Series D round. Yanolja declined to comment on its valuation and IPO plans. 

South Korea’s largest travel tech startup was founded by former motel manager SuJin Lee, CEO and founder of Yanolja, in 2005.

Yanolja said it has been using its most recent investment to invest in its global travel platform (GTP) and to strengthen its automated solutions through artificial intelligence, with the aim of building tech to provide more personalized solutions for users.   

In July, Yanolja launched a new feature, Yanolja Cloud, a B2B operation solution, to reinforce its digital transformation as demand for contactless service grows by the pandemic. Yanolja Cloud automates online and offline operations and helps hotel operators generate more revenues by offering personalized service to guests at a lower cost. The company claims that it provides Yanolja Cloud to about 30,000 clients in 170 countries, including across Southeast Asia and Africa, in 60 different languages. 

Yanolja announced today that Yanolja Cloud recorded 170% growth in revenues in the overseas market, including the U.S., Indonesia, the Philippines, India and Africa as of September, year on year. 

Yanolja has been making other acquisitions to scale up: in 2019, it picked up South Korea’s Dailyhotel and Indian lodging management platform eZee Technosys; in 2018 it acquired Southeast Asia-based hotel chain Zen Rooms