Korean personalized Travel Guide Service, MyRealTrip, Raises $980k, Plans China Expansion

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MyRealTrip, a Korean startup that provides overseas travelers with personalized guided tours in thier mother tongue has just announced their third round of funding. SmileGate Investment led the round, contributing 70% of the funding, with Capstone Partners joining. This Series A round has provided an injection of almost $1M to help the company build out their Android and iOS mobile apps and expand to include Chinese travelers visiting Korea, as well as continuing to build their core users from Korea.

myRealTrip is an open marketplace for local guides and travelers that offers authentic, customized guide services. Simply put MyRealTrip provides crowd-sourced tour guides in Korean, for discerning Korean travelers visiting locations throughout the world..
Traditional tours are often devoid of personal touch and lure travelers into trips that are geared towards commercial advantage. These package tours often miss the real experience of a travel destination and have lost touch with the more bespoke needs of modern travelers. MyRealTrip invites locals with a profound knowledge of their region or local area to upload their own recommended tour itineraries. Travelers can easily skim through a diverse range of authentic itineraries, directly contact local guides through the newly added instant messaging service, and customize the itineraries according to their needs.

MyRealTrip is able to offer travelers a truly personalized service, with local guides who do not have a commercial interest in visiting certain locations or businesses.

The company received angel funding from one of Korea’s most reputable angel investment groups, Primer, and in early 2013 secured an additional seed round of $350.000 from BonAngels and a number of other Angels.

MyRealTrip takes a 20% commission on fees paid to local guides, and is building out an online payment facility which will allow greater security for both parties and will streamline the payment experience.

Until now, the entire service has been built in Korean and connects Korean travelers to overseas guides who speak Korean. But the team will now be concentrating on building a Chinese language version that aims to capitalize on the huge influx of Chinese visitors to Korea. Minseo Baek, Co-Founder of MyRealTrip explained that localization will be critical to their success. “We suppose that Chinese visitors might have very different needs from our Korean travelers. For instance, they might be more interested in exclusive, customized tours than Koreans do, or they might be more interested in ticket bookings and car/driver rental service than in guide tours. We are working very closely with consumer data to ensure that we are providing Chinese travelers with exactly what they want from their Korea experience,” she said.

Since I last spoke to Minseo in June 2013 the company has grown from a team of two, to now employing seven additional staff and two interns, covering operations, development, design and marketing. Their sales numbers have also increased over eight-fold since last year, with weekly visits this May over five times the figure of 5,000 from a year earlier. Reservations have also increased from around 50 per week to around 250 compared to last year.

A key focus now is to use their recent investment to build their mobile apps for Android and iOS which are both scheduled for release before the end of this year.

As the company grows Minseo has noticed that increasingly there has been a call from travelers for more professional guides and the company has recently hired a Head of Marketing who has been tasked with growing the pool of professional guides, as well as focusing on continually increasing booking figures. This is being achieved through in-trend Guerilla marketing tactics, as well as through forming strategic partnerships with established travel brands and local celebrities.

The company is also beginning to use its user reviews to gain more intelligent feedback for service development. Currently almost 50% of users leave reviews, which have become a rich source of data for the company, as well as providing user generated marketing content.

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