Article by: Dr. Kyle Wong – Project Director of ACH Worldwide Ltd.
Five years ago, Eric Gnock Fah, the COO and co-founder of Klook, was staffing a small booth at Rise. Today, Klook is the first Hong Kong unicorn. It just received 150 million USD from Softbank’s Vision Fund. It received funding from some of the biggest VC funds including Sequoia China. The story of Klook offers many valuable lessons to anyone doing start up, especially in Hong Kong.
Klook means Keep looking. Their users can buy train tickets and even book restaurants. Most their most important products are day tour. The founding team was inspired by unique and special tour experience such as Parahawing in Nepal. it is a combination of fun, cultural as well as environmental experiences. However, Eric soon realised these unique experience, while sexy, are not very scalable and therefore hard to sustain a real business. So they turn to some boring but basic products such as transportation, theme parks and famous tour attraction. Currently user can buy all the train tickets in China, Japan, Taiwan on their web site.
However, Klook continues to work with bloggers and travel reporters to find unique and special travel ideas. To Klook Japan, especially with the coming of the 2020 Olympics, is a key market. They not only work with all the train companies in Japan, but now are offering onsen experience to the Klook’s customers.
Klook realised that many local tour operators are still quite manual and therefore not scalable. So Klook works with the operators to help them to go digitise their booking systems. Klook operates mostly day trip. They want to work with as many local operators as possible.
The fund raising experience offers valuable lessons to young Hong Kong entrepreneurs. When Klook first talked to Chinese investors, the investors have difficulty understanding the business model as they focus mainly inbound and the domestic market. But with more and more Chinese going outbound, they now realise the huge market potential. Hong Kong plays an important role in the global travel. Not only Hong Kong is a travel hub, people in Hong Kong love to travel and therefore can offer many exciting travel ideas. With Hong Kong right between the East and West, it will play a role to connect China to the rest of the world.