Myneral.me wins the TechCrunch Hackathon at VivaTech

It’s been a long night at VivaTech. The building hosted a very special competition — the TechCrunch Hackathon in Paris.

Hundreds of engineers and designers got together to come up with something cool, something neat, something awesome. The only condition was that they only had 36 hours to work on their projects. Some of them were participating in our event for the first time, while others were regulars. Some of them slept on the floor in a corner, while others drank too much Red Bull.

We could all feel the excitement in the air when the 64 teams took the stage to present a one-minute demo to impress fellow coders and our judges. But only one team could take home the grand prize and €5,000. So, without further ado, meet the TechCrunch Hackathon winner.

Winner: Myneral.me

Current mining operations lack transparency and clarity in the way they are monitored. In order to understand how a material went from initial discovery in the mine to end product, a new tool is necessary to monitor operations. Myneral.me offers an all-encompassing platform for the metal and mining sector that showcases CSR to both industry partners and end users. Find out more on Myneral.me.

Runner-Up #1: Vyta

Vyta takes patient information and helps doctors understand which patient needs to be treated first. A simple tool like this could make things smoother for everyone at the emergency room and improve treatments.

Runner-Up #2: Scrub

SCRUB = SCRUM + BUGS. Easily track your errors across applications and fix them using our algorithmic suggestions and code samples. Our open-source bug tracker automagically collects all errors for you. Find out more on GitHub.

Runner-Up #3: Chiche

Finding the future upcoming brand depends on the set of data you are using to detect it. First, they do a simple quantification of the most famous brands on social medias to identify three newcomers. Second, they use Galerie Lafayette’s website as a personal shopping tool to propose customers the most adequate product within the three newcomers.


Judges

Dr. Aurélie Jean has been working for more than 10 years as a research scientist and an entrepreneur in computational sciences, applied to engineering, medicine, education, economy, finance and journalism. In the past, Aurélie worked at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and at Bloomberg. Today, Aurélie works and lives between USA and France to run In Silico Veritas, a consulting agency in analytics and computer simulations. Aurélie is an advisor at the Boston Consulting Group and an external collaborator for The Ministry of Education of France. Aurélie is also a science editorial contributor for Le Point, teaches algorithms in universities and conducts research.

Julien Meraud has a solid track record in e-commerce after serving international companies for several years, including eBay, PriceMinister and Rakuten. Before joining Doctolib, Julien was CMO of Rakuten Spain, where he improved brand online acquisition, retention, promotions and campaigns. Julien joined Doctolib at the very beginning (2014), becoming the company’s first CMO and quickly holding CPO functions additionally. At Doctolib, Julien also leads Strategy teams that are responsible for identifying and sizing Doctolib’s potential new markets. Julien has a Master’s degree in Marketing, Statistics and Economics from ENSAI and a specialized Master in Marketing Management from ESSEC Business School.

Laurent Perrin is the co-founder and CTO of Front, which is reinventing email for teams. Front serves more than 5,000 companies and has raised $79 million in venture funding from investors such as Sequoia Capital, DFJ and Uncork Capital. Prior to Front, Laurent was a senior engineer at various startups and helped design scalable real-time systems. He holds a Master’s in Computer Science from École Polytechnique and Télécom ParisTech.

Neesha Tambe is the head of Startup Battlefield, TechCrunch’s global startup launch competition. In this role she sources, recruits and vets thousands of early-stage startups per year while training and coaching top-tier startups to launch in the infamous Startup Battlefield competition. Additionally, she pioneered the concept and launched CrunchMatch, the networking program at TechCrunch events that has facilitated thousands of connections between founders, investors and the startup community at-large. Prior to her work with TechCrunch, Neesha ran the Sustainable Brands’ Innovation Open — a startup competition for shared value and sustainability-focused startups with judges from Fortune 50 companies.

Renaud Visage is the technical co-founder of San Francisco-based Eventbrite (NYSE: EB), the globally leading event technology platform that went public in September 2018. Renaud is also an angel investor, guiding founders that are solving challenging technical problems in realizing their global ambitions, and he works closely with seed VC firm Point Nine Capital as a board partner, representing the fund on the board of several of their portfolio companies. Renaud also serves on the board of ShareIT, the Paris-based tech for good acceleration program launched in collaboration with Ashoka, and is an advisor to the French impact investing fund, Ring for Good. In 2014, Renaud was included in Wired UK’s Top 100 digital influencers in Europe.

In addition to our judges, here’s the hackmaster who was the MC for the event:

Romain Dillet is a senior writer at TechCrunch. Originally from France, Romain attended EMLYON Business School, a leading French business school specialized in entrepreneurship. He covers many things, from mobile apps with great design to privacy, security, fintech, Apple, AI and complex tech achievements. He also speaks at major tech conferences. He likes pop culture more than anything in the world. He now lives in Paris when he’s not on the road. He used to live in New York and loved it.

Startups Weekly: There’s an alternative to raising VC and it’s called revenue-based financing

Revenue-based financing is on the rise, at least according to Lighter Capital, a firm that doles out entrepreneur-friendly debt capital.

What exactly is RBF you ask? It’s a relatively new form of funding for tech companies that are posting monthly recurring revenue. Here’s how Lighter Capital, which completed 500 RBF deals in 2018, explains it: “It’s an alternative funding model that mixes some aspects of debt and equity. Most RBF is technically structured as a loan. However, RBF investors’ returns are tied directly to the startup’s performance, which is more like equity.”

Source: Lighter Capital

What’s the appeal? As I said, RBFs are essentially dressed up debt rounds. Founders who opt for RBFs as opposed to venture capital deals hold on to all their equity and they don’t get stuck on the VC hamster wheel, the process in which you are forced to continually accept VC while losing more and more equity as a means of pleasing your investors.

RBFs, however, are better than traditional debt rounds because the investors are more incentivized to help the companies they invest in because they are receiving a certain portion of that business’s monthly revenues, typically 1% to 9%. Eventually, as is explained thoroughly in Lighter Capital’s newest RBF report, monthly payments come to an end, usually 1.3 to 2.5X the amount of the original financing, a multiple referred to as the “cap.” Three to five years down the line, any unpaid amount of said cap is due back to the investor. When all is said in done, ideally, the startup has grown with the support of the capital and hasn’t lost any equity.

At this point, they could opt to raise additional revenue-based capital, they could turn to venture capital or they could tap a tech bank to help them get to the next step. The idea is RBF is easier on the founder and it allows them optionality, something that is often lost when companies turn to VCs.

IPO corner, rapid-fire edition

Slack’s direct listing will be on June 20th. Get excited.

China’s Luckin Coffee raised $650 million in upsized U.S. IPO

Crowdstrike, a cybersecurity unicorn, dropped its S-1.

Freelance marketplace Fiverr has filed to go public on the NYSE.

Plus, I had a long and comprehensive conversation with Zoom CEO Eric Yuan this week about the company’s closely watched IPO. You can read the full transcript here.

Second Chances

Silicon Valley entrepreneur Hosain Rahman, the man behind Jawbone, has managed to raise $65.4 million for his new company, according to an SEC filing. The paperwork, coincidentally or otherwise, was processed while most of the world’s attention was focused on Uber’s IPO. Jawbone, if you remember, produced wireless speakers and Bluetooth earpieces, and went kaput in 2017 after burning up $1 billion in venture funding over the course of 10 years. Ouch.

More startup capital

Funds!

On the heels of enterprise startup UiPath raising at a $7 billion valuation, the startup’s biggest investor is announcing a new fund to double down on making more investments in Europe. VC firm Accel has closed a $575 million fund — money that it plans to use to back startups in Europe and Israel, investing primarily at the Series A stage in a range of between $5 million and $15 million, reports TechCrunch’s Ingrid Lunden. Plus, take a closer look at Contrary Capital. Part accelerator, part VC fund, Contrary writes small checks to student entrepreneurs and recent college dropouts.

Extra Crunch

Our paying subscribers are in for a treat this week. Our in-house venture capital expert Danny Crichton wrote down some thoughts on Uber and Lyft’s investment bankers. Here’s a snippet: “Startup CEOs heading to the public markets have a love/hate relationship with their investment bankers. On one hand, they are helpful in introducing a company to a wide range of asset managers who will hopefully hold their company’s stock for the long term, reducing price volatility and by extension, employee churn. On the other hand, they are flagrantly expensive, costing millions of dollars in underwriting fees and related expenses…”

Read the full story here and sign up for Extra Crunch here.

#Equitypod

If you enjoy this newsletter, be sure to check out TechCrunch’s venture-focused podcast, Equity. In this week’s episode, available here, Crunchbase News editor-in-chief Alex Wilhelm and I chat about the notable venture rounds of the week, CrowdStrike’s IPO and more of this week’s headlines.

Want more TechCrunch newsletters? Sign up here.

MP Tom Watson wants UK competition authority to investigate Amazon’s Deliveroo stake

European restaurant delivery giant Deliveroo this morning announced that Amazon would be gobbling up a share in the company, by leading a new $575 million round of funding in it. But it looks like the e-commerce giant may be facing a little indigestion ahead.

Tom Watson, MP and deputy leader of the Labour Party, today announced that he will be asking the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to investigate the investment, opening the door to either imposing stronger conditions on the deal, or blocking it outright.

“It’s called surveillance capitalism,” he said today of Amazon’s approach to how it uses data from customers to build and sell products. “It’s a digital dystopia, and I shall be writing to the Competition and Markets Authority demanding they launch an investigation into this ‘investment.’”

We have contacted Watson directly to elaborate on which violation(s) he would cite in the referral and we will update as and when we hear back. Areas that the CMA might investigate could involve whether the deal would result in unfair competition, or a misuse of data.

Watson’s announcement came via a series of tweets on Twitter, in which he laid out his concerns in more detail. His words are a concise take on the key to Amazon’s business model: its focus on Deliveroo is not just to invest in new services to expand its e-commerce and logistics business, but to leverage the data generated in one operation to grow other parts of its business, too.

“Deliveroo’s CEO Will Shu welcomes a land grab by Amazon because ‘it is such a customer-obsessed organisation,’” he said, citing an interview Shu gave to the BBC about the investment. “He’s right, Amazon is obsessed. Obsessed with tracking tools, micro-targeted ads, extracting billions through monetising our personal data.

“They don’t want to get their mighty claws on a food delivery system. They want Deliveroo’s tech and data. They don’t just want to know how you eat, what you eat, when you eat. They want to know how best to extract your cash throughout your waking and sleeping hours.”

The CMA — and regulators in general — have had a mixed record when it comes to putting the foot down on large deals. On one hand, in the past European reguators approved major takeovers by Facebook of Instagram and Whatsapp — takeovers that now many are now questioning. On the other, it recently moved to block a $10 billion acquisition of Walmart’s ASDA by Sainsbury’s — effectively kicking the deal into touch.

The difference between these past cases and Amazon/Deliveroo is that the latter is an investment rather than an outright acquisition. However, there is an argument to be made that one can lead to the other, specifically in this case.

In September 2018, it was reported that Amazon had made at least two attempts to acquire Deliveroo, around the same time that Uber was also considering a bid for the company to bolster its Uber Eats business. (Deliveroo and Uber Eats have been in protracted competition to dominate higher-end, app-based food delivery services in key cities like London.)

At the time, Deliveroo was valued at around $2 billion; its valuation now is likely to be closer to $3 billion.

It’s worth pointing out too that another major acquisition that Amazon has made in Europe, of LoveFilm (to build eventually its Netflix competitor Amazon Prime Video), also started with an investment.

Amazon has had mixed success so far when it comes to food in London: it launched Amazon Restaurants in 2016 as one of the first markets for its move into food delivery, but closed it in 2018 (this is reportedly around the time that it first started to take an interest in Deliveroo).

Amazon has meanwhile been gradually expanding Amazon Fresh, Amazon Pantry and other grocery delivery in the UK, but has yet to really utilise its relatively recent ownership of Whole Foods to expand that business beyond a few retail locations in London.

In the UK, there have also been rumors that Amazon has considered snapping up real estate from failing brick-and-mortar superstores, although so far nothing has materialised.

In that context, a stake in Deliveroo could well be one development in what is a very long-term play for Amazon, a company known for pulling off tenacious, long-term plays. Whether the CMA chooses to investigate both the deal as well as that wider context will be an interesting one to chew on.

Tutor House, the UK-based tutoring platform, scores £2M from Fuel Ventures

Tutor House, a U.K.-based startup that operates a marketplace to let parents find an online or in-person tutor for their children, has raises £2 million in funding.

Backing the round, the first for the young company, is Fuel Ventures, the London-based VC and startup builder set up by Mark Pearson of MyVoucherCodes fame. Fuel Ventures recently closed its third fund of £20 million to continue investing in early-stage B2B and B2C marketplaces, platforms and SaaS.

Founded by Ex-teacher Alex Dyer in 2012 — and self-funded until now — Tutor House connects parents and families with tutors either in-person or online. The site enables families to search for tutors across an array of subjects and academic levels, and now claims to be the U.K.’s leading tutoring agency offering private home or remote tuition for all Primary, GCSE, A-Level and University subjects.

“The large number of teachers leaving their profession in addition to ever increasing class sizes mean that the market for private tutoring has expanded significantly,” former psychology teacher and now Tutor House CEO Dyer tells me. “In order to improve the quality of each student’s academic experience, our tutors provide personalised learning plans that will help to boost grades and give learners the best chance of success”.

In addition, Dyer says that Tutor House is the only tutoring platform that interviews all tutors and ensures that they have a full DBS check before going live on the platform. “In an unregulated industry this is very important,” he adds. “We are dedicated to providing each and every student with the best level of service possible”.

Typical Tutor House customers fall into four groups. The first is hands-on parents who want the best for their child regardless of price. The second is parents who see education as important but may have to ask relatives for help with costs. The third is students who can’t access education in a mainstream school due to anxiety or other SEN related issues. “These students often need to retake A-level or GCSE exams due to poor teaching/no teacher,” says Dyer. The final group is university students and adult learners who are investing in their future by taking learning into their own hands.

A classic marketplace play, Tutor House charges tutors a 20 percent commission fee for every booking. However, if a tutor books more than twenty hours a month, the commission is reduced. “We also offer A-Level and Pre-U retake courses, in addition to residential courses and homeschooling,” explains Dyer.

Meanwhile, Tutor House says it will use the investment from Fuel Ventures to expand into other countries, and to create a bespoke school in London for students who need intensive tutoring for exam retakes.

Trump’s Huawei ban ‘wins’ one trade battle, but the US may lose the networking war

While U.S. government officials celebrate what they must consider to be a win in their battle against the low-cost, high-performance networking vendor Huawei and other Chinese hardware manufacturers, the country is at risk of falling seriously behind in the broader, global competition for telecom tech and customers.

It may be a race that the U.S. is willing to concede, but it should be noted that Huawei’s sphere of influence on other shores continues to expand, even as the company’s ability to operate in the U.S. is completely proscribed.

Indeed, Huawei’s executive director and chairman of its investment review board, David Wang, told Bloomberg that, “Our U.S. business is not that big. We have global operations. We still will have stable operations.”

Wang is right… to a point. Huawei derives most of its sales from international markets, according to a 2018 financial report released earlier this year, but it depends heavily on technology from U.S. chip manufacturers for its equipment. Without those supplies, Huawei could find itself in a very difficult spot, indeed.

Huawei’s end of year financials showed its consumer devices business is now its main money-maker, while the majority of its revenue is not derived from the U.S. market

And the U.S. has its reasons for working to stymie Huawei’s efforts to expand the reach of its networking technologies as this excellent Twitter thread from Adam Townsend persuasively argues.

Essentially, China has invested its basically limitless capital into subsidizing next-gen wireless technology and buying up next-generation startups and innovators, all while the U.S. has borne early stage risk. Meanwhile, it is also using unlimited money to poach regulators and industry experts who might advocate against it.

Huawei continues to make inroads in nations across the emerging markets of Latin America, Eastern Europe, Southeast Asia and Africa where demand for connectivity is on the rise. Those are regions where the U.S. has plenty of strategic interests, but America’s ability to sway public opinion or entice governments to act against Chinese networking companies could be severely limited by its inability to offer meaningful incentives or alternatives to them.

Even with the passage of the BUILD Act in October 2018, which was meant to revitalize U.S. foreign aid and investment with a $60 billion package, it’s worth noting that China spent nearly $47 billion in foreign investment in Europe alone in 2018. Chinese direct investments totaled another $49.45 billion into Africa and the Middle East and $18 billion into South America, according to data from the American Enterprise Institute, compiled by Foreign Policy.

Map courtesy of the American Enterprise Institute.

Those investments have turned nations that should be staunch political allies into reluctant or simply rhetorical backers of the U.S. position. Take the relationship between the U.S. and Brazil, for example — a historically strong partnership going back years and one that seemingly only strengthened given the similarities between the two ultraconservative leaders in power in both nations.

However, as Foreign Affairs reports, Brazil is unlikely to accede to President Trump’s demands that Brazil aids in steps to block China’s economic expansion.

“Brazilian business groups have already begun to defend the country’s deep trade ties to China, rightly pointing out that any hope of containing China and once more turning the United States into Brazil’s most important trading partner is little more than unrealistic nostalgia,” writes Foreign Affairs correspondent, Oliver Stuenkel. “Working alongside powerful military generals, these business associations are mobilizing to avoid any delays that sidelining Huawei in the region could cause in getting 5G up and running.”

The whole article is worth reading, but its refrain is that the attempts by U.S. government officials to paint Huawei and Chinese economic inroads as a national security threat in developing economies are largely falling on deaf ears.

It’s not just networking technologies either. As one venture capitalist who invests in Latin America and the U.S. told TechCrunch anonymously: “It’s interesting how the U.S.-China relationships are going to affect what is happening in Latin America. The Chinese are already being more aggressive on the banking side.”

China’s big technology companies are also taking an interest in South America, both as vendors and as investors on the continent.

In an article in Crunchbase, the South American and Chinese-focused venture capitalist, Nathan Lustig underscored the trend. Lustig wrote:

In both the private and the public sectors, China is swiftly increasing its support for Latin America. Chinese expertise in financial technology, as well as its influence in developing markets around the world, is turning China into a strategic partner for startups and entrepreneurs in Latin America. Most of the Chinese investment in Latin America so far is going to Brazil, although this is likely to spread across the region as Chinese investors become better-acquainted with the local tech ecosystems, most likely to Mexico.

Beyond the Didi Chuxing acquisition of Brazil’s 99 in January, Chinese companies began investing heavily in Brazilian fintech startups, specifically Nubank and StoneCo, this year.

Indeed, China has an entire catalog of low-cost technologies and economic packages from state-owned and privately held investors to support their adoption, backing up its position as the leader for tech across a range of applications in emerging markets.

For the U.S. to compete, it will have to look beyond protectionism at its shores to actual commitments to greater economic development abroad. With lower tax revenues coming in and the prospect of giant deficits building up as far as the eye can see, there’s not much room to promote an alternative to Huawei internationally. That could leave the country increasingly isolated and create far more problems as it gets left behind.

Macron defends his startup-friendly policies

For the third year as president, France’s president Emmanuel Macron talked to the French tech ecosystem at VivaTech in Paris. This time, he used this opportunity to defend his policies so far and say that tech startups have nearly everything they need to succeed

Frichti’s Julia Bijaoui, TransferWise’s Flora Coleman, OpenClassrooms’ Pierre Dubuc, Vinted’s Thomas Plantenga and UiPath’s Daniel Dines shared the stage with Macron and each asked one question about funding, European regulation, talent, the digital single market, etc.

Just like last year, Macron took a strong stance when it comes to corporate taxes. “In order to compete with American giants, you need to make sure that competition is fair. You pay taxes, so the tech giant that is competing against you should pay taxes too,” Macron said.

France recently approved a tax on tech giants. If you generate more than €750 million in revenue globally and €25 million in France, you have to pay 3 percent of your French revenue in taxes, even if your company is registered in Ireland, Luxembourg or the Netherlands.

“It’s a temporary measure because we want a tax at the European level, and more generally at the OECD level,” Macron said.

When it comes to funding, things look much better now than a few years ago. There are now more than a handful of French unicorns. And Macron defended his taxation policies, such as a the flat tax on capital gain and the end of the wealth tax on your shares in public or private companies.

And yet, it’s still complicated when it comes to exits — if you want to go down the public road, you most likely have to IPO in the U.S. “We have to build a European financial capital market,” Macron said. “It’ll require some modifications and deeper European integration,” he added later.

Given that Europe is about to vote for the European Parliament, a lot of Macron’s solutions involved the European Union. It sometimes felt like Macron was campaigning for his own party by saying that he wants to go further, but you need to vote for his party first.

When it comes to talent, Macron emphasized the quality of French universities and engineering schools. “We are competitive in terms of human capital and it’s no coincidence. A few years ago, everybody was saying ‘there are a lot of French people in Silicon Valley’. French people living in France are the same, but they cost much, much less,” Macron said.

He then mentioned the French Tech Visa to attract foreign talent, a special visa for tech talent and their families. The program has been overhauled a couple of months ago.

When it comes to regulation, Macron says that the European Union should follow the GDPR model. “What we did on privacy, one regulation for all, we have to do it for other areas,” he said. “On competition, on taxation, on data, we need to regulate.”

Macron concluded by defending a third way to regulate and foster tech companies, which is different from China and the U.S. “Europe can become the tech leader of tomorrow because we are building a tech ecosystem that is compatible with democracy,” he said.

According to him, China doesn’t do enough when it comes to individual rights and human rights, which could eventually backfire for tech companies. And American companies have become too powerful and out of control for the U.S. government.

Amazon leads $575M investment in Deliveroo

Amazon is taking a slice of Europe’s food delivery market after the U.S. e-commerce giant led a $575 million investment in Deliveroo .

First reported by Sky yesterday, the Series G round was confirmed in an early UK morning announcement from Deliveroo, which confirmed that existing backers including T. Rowe Price, Fidelity Management and Research Company, and Greenoaks also took part. The deal takes Deliveroo to just over $1.5 billion raised to date. The company was valued at over $2 billion following its previous raise in late 2017, no updated valuation was provided today.

London-based Deliveroo operates in 14 countries, including the U.K, France, Germany and Spain, and — outside of Europe — Singapore, Taiwan, Australia and the UAE. Across those markets, it claims it works with 80,000 restaurants with a fleet of 60,000 delivery people and 2,500 permanent employees.

It isn’t immediately clear how Amazon plans to use its new strategic relationship with Deliveroo — it could, for example, integrate it with Prime membership — but this isn’t the firm’s first dalliance with food delivery. The U.S. firm closed its Amazon Restaurants UK takeout business last year after it struggled to compete with Deliveroo and Uber Eats. The service remains operational in the U.S, however.

“Amazon has been an inspiration to me personally and to the company, and we look forward to working with such a customer-obsessed organization,” said Deliveroo CEO and founder Will Shu in a statement.

Shu said the new money will go towards initiatives that include growing Deliveroo’s London-based engineering team, expanding its reach and focusing on new products, including cloud kitchens that can cook up delivery meals faster and more cost-efficiently.

[Center] Will Shu, Deliveroo CEO and co-founder, on stage at TechCrunch Disrupt London

GetYourGuide picks up $484M, passes 25M tickets sold through its tourism activity app

As we swing into the summer tourist season, a company poised to capitalise on that has raised a huge round of funding. GetYourGuide — a Berlin startup that has built a popular marketplace for people to discover and book sightseeing tours, tickets for attractions and other experiences around the world — is today announcing that it has picked up $484 million, a Series E round of funding that will catapult its valuation above the $1 billion mark.

The funding is a milestone for a couple of reasons. GetYourGuide says it is the highest-ever round of funding for a company in the area of “travel experiences” (tours and other activities) — a market estimated to be worth $150 billion this year and rising to $183 billion in 2020. And this Series E is also one of the biggest-ever growth rounds for any European startup, period.

The company has now sold 25 million tickets for tours, attractions and other experiences with a current catalog of some 50,000 experiences on offer. That’s a sign of strong growth: in 2017 it sold 10 million tickets, and its last reported catalog number was 35,000. It will be using the funding to build more of its own “Originals” tour experiences — which have now passed the 40,000 tickets sold mark — as well as to build up more activities in Asia and the US, two fast-growing markets for the startup.

The funding is being led by Softbank, via its Vision Fund, with Temasek, Lakestar, Heartcore Capital (formerly Sunstone Capital), and Swisscanto Invest among others also participating. (Swisscanto is part of Zürcher Kantonalbank: GetYourGuide was originally founded in Zurich, where the founders had studied, and it still runs some R&D operations there.) The company has now raised well over $600 million.

It’s notable how Softbank — which is on the hunt for interesting opportunities to invest its $100 billion superfund — has been stepping up a gear in Germany to tap into some of bigger tech players that have emerged out of that market, which today is the biggest in Europe. Other big plays have included €460 million into Auto1 and €900 million into payments provider Wirecard. Other companies it has backed, such as hotel company Oyo out of India, is using its funding to break into Europe (and buy German companies in the process).

There had been reports over the last several months that GetYouGuide was in the process of raising anywhere between $300 million and more than $500 million. In late April, we were told by sources that the round hadn’t yet closed, and that numbers published in the media up to then had been inaccurate, even as we nailed down that Softbank was indeed involved in the round.

The valuation in this round is not being disclosed, but CEO Johannes Reck (who co-founded the app with Martin Sieber, Pascal Mathis, Tobias Rein and Tao Tao) said in an interview with TechCrunch that it was definitely “now a unicorn” — meaning that its valuation had passed the $1 billion mark. For additional context, the rumor last month was that GetYourGuide’s valuation is now up to €1.6 billion ($1.78 billion) but I have not been able to get firm confirmation of that number.

From hip replacements to hipsters

GetYourGuide’s growth — and investor interesting in it — has closely followed the rise of new platforms like Airbnb that have changed the face of how we travel, and what we do when we get somewhere. We have moved far beyond the days of visiting a travel agent that books everything, from flight to hotel to all your activities, as you sit on the other side of a desk from her or him. Now with the tap of a finger or the click of a mouse, we have thousands of choices.

Within that, GetYourGuide thinks that it has jumped on an interesting opportunity to rethink the activity aspect of tourism. Tour packages and other highly organized travel experiences are often associated with older people, or those with families — essentially people who need more predictability when they are not at home.

Reck noted that the earliest users of GetYourGuide in 2010 were precisely those people — or at least those who were more inclined to use digital platforms to begin with: the demographic, he said, was 40-50 year olds, most likely travelling with family.

That is one thing that has really started to change, in no small part because of GetYourGuide itself. Making the experience of booking experiences mobile-friendly, GetYourGuide has played into the culture of doing and showing that has propelled the rise of social media.

“They want to do things, to have something to post on Instagram,” he said. The average age of a GetYourGuide user now, he said, is 25-40.

This has even evolved into what GetYourGuide provides to users. “At some point, staff in Asia had the idea of crafting a ‘GetYourGuide Instagram Tour of Bali.’ That really took off, and now this is the number-one tour booked in the region.” It has since expanded the concept to 50 destinations.

That has also led GetYourGuide to conclude it has a ways to go to continue developing its model and scope further, expanding into longer sightseeing excursions, beyond one or two-hour tours into day trips and even overnight exeperiences.

As it continues to play around with some of these offerings, it’s also increasingly taking a more direct role in the branding and the provision of the content. Initially, all tickets and tours were posted on GetYourGuide by third parties. Now, GetYourGuide is building more of what Reck calls “Originals” — which it might develop in partnership with others but ultimately handles as its own first-party content. (That Instagram tour was one of those Originals.)

It’s notable that others are closing in on the same “experiences” model that forms the core of GetYourGuide’s business: Airbnb, to diversify how it makes revenues and to extend its touchpoints with guests beyond basic accommodation bookings, has also started to sell experiences. Meanwhile, daily deals pioneer Groupon has also positioned itself as a destination for purchasing “experiences” as a way of offset declines in other areas of its business. Similarly, travel portals that sell plane tickets regularly default to pushing more activities on you.

Reck pointed out that the area of business where GetYourGuide is active is becoming increasingly attractive to these players as other aspects of the travel industry become increasingly commoditised. Indeed, you can visit dozens of sites to compare pricing on plane tickets, and if you are flexible, pick up even more of a bargain at the last minute. And the rise of multiple Airbnb-style platforms offering private accommodation has made competition among those supplying those platforms — as well as hotels — increasingly fierce.