South Korean unicorn startup Yanolja has made a conditional investment in noW Busking, a restaurant reservation and waiting service based on the popular Kakaotalk messaging application. As of July this year, noW Busking's noW Waiting service had 18 million users and over 2,600 participating restaurants.
Yanolja's investment in noW Busking was driven by noW Busking's in-house technical expertise and service expansion capabilities. Jeon Sang-yeol, co-founder and CEO of noW Busking, said in a Yanolja press release that the noW Busking team plans to work with Yanolja to enhance its services and help increase recurring revenue through differentiation.
Yanolja has positioned itself as a total travel vertical product and service provider through mergers and acquisitions in both the B2C and B2B sectors.
The acquisition of Ezee Technology, the second largest property management system (PMS) provider after Oracle Opera, has significantly contributed to Yanolja's financial results. In 2019, Yanolja's total revenue reached KRW 300 billion (USD 250 million), representing a 78.8% year-on-year growth.
Global online travel agencies (OTAs) and related companies increasingly invest in or acquire companies that provide an entire vertical travel ecosystem.
For example, Booking Holdings Inc (NASDAQ: BKNG) owns OpenTable as a subsidiary, while Trip.com Group Ltd (NASDAQ: TCOM) invested in China's leading domestic restaurant reservation platform Meiweibuyongdeng in May 2018.
In addition, American Express (NYSE: AXP) acquired CRM and restaurant reservation service RESY in May 2019.
Yanolja's investment in noW Busking comes as the South Korean government announced a new five-tier social distancing system earlier this month, replacing the previous three-tier system.
The more targeted approach to restrictions is designed to mitigate the impact of conditions on the economy, small businesses, and individuals.
In addition, South Korea has done a better job of containing the spread of COVID-19 than many Western nations, which could further support Yanolja's expansion in the travel and hospitality sector.