Companies such as Expedia and Agoda dominate hotel bookings in Taiwan and other countries, but AsiaYo! founder C.K. Cheng noticed small, independent guesthouses — known locally as minsu — were a popular option for travellers in Taiwan.
He figured the minsu — privately run and lacking concierge desks — could use a partner that would provide multilingual customer service.
It’s a similar space to peer-to-peer booking platform AirBnB, but Cheng says the peer-to-peer model poses challenges for these operators, with language barriers in particular making it hard for them to deal with international travellers. And by targeting only licensed operators, Cheng avoided the well-publicised regulatory hurdles AirBnB has faced around the world.
“We emphasise service and have a more centralised model,” Cheng says. “So if travellers have any problems, instead of talking directly to the hosts — which they can also do if language isn’t a problem — they can just contact us.”
He founded AsiaYo! in June 2013 and for two years built it up after hours while keeping his day job as an equities researcher at investment bank CLSA. He gathered seed funding from former CLSA colleagues, and later raised close to US$3 million from Taiwan-based Darwin Ventures and Japanese VC Accord Ventures.
AsiaYo! booked more than 150,000 nights of accommodation last year and now offers listed accommodation totalling more than 50,000 rooms in Taiwan, Japan, Korea and Thailand. It will add bookings from Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia later this year.
To read our earlier articles in the series, please click here.