Chinese web 2.0 market is hot up to the point where large-scale financial institution like Lehman Brothers has jumped on a travel start-up. Qunar.com is an online travel search engine that we’ve just found out it has raised $10M in its 2nd round a couple of months ago. The investment in the company was led by Lehman Brothers Private Equity and was joined by return backers GSR Ventures and Mayfield Fund.
The company is based in Beijing, China and was launched in 2005 and means “where are you going?” in Mandarin Chinese. The company was founded by Douglas Khoo, CC Zhuang, and Fritz Demopoulos who had founded and sold the CSEEK search engine to News Corporation and founded and sold the Shawei.com portal to The Tom Group.
Essentially Qunar provides a price comparison engine that leads users to transactions. Qunar makes most of its income from advertising fees. That concept and business model is not something new on Internet but is perhaps in its infancy in the huge Chinese market and Qunar is trying to tap into it.
Qunar is said that it expects to break even consistently in 2008 and it may seek an IPO listing in 2010 or 2011, either in Hong Kong or on the Nasdaq in US.
As from what we were able to dig up Qunar competes with Ctrip and eLong, but analysts predict that it will grow 40%-50% year-over-year for the next couple of years. Qunar has been developing partnerships to get into the Japanese and Korean markets. Under no doubt the major global players on the online travel market are companies like Expedia.com, Hotwire.com, Orbitz.com, Priceline.com, Travelocity.com, TripAdvisor, Kayak, Mobissimo, among others.
Travel remains the single largest component of e-commerce according to Forrester Research, a consulting firm in Cambridge, Mass. But despite the dominance of online travel agency heavyweights as the companies cited above, most users consult multiple Web sites when shopping online for travel. The average consumer visits 3.6 sites when shopping for an airline ticket online, according to PhoCusWright, a Sherman, CT-based travel technology firm. Yahoo claims 76% of all online travel purchases are preceded by some sort of search function, according to Malcolmson, director of product development for Yahoo Travel. The 2004 Travel Consumer Survey published Jupiter Research released an interesting fact that “nearly two in five online travel consumers say they believe that no one site has the lowest rates or fares.”
More about Qunar
Qunar.com was founded in early 2005 by three entrepreneurs with a number of years experience operating exclusively in the Asian region – Fritz Demopoulos, Douglas Khoo, and CC Zhuang.
With a technology and product development team based in Beijing and directly located next to Beijing University and Tsinghua University, Qunar.com has developed its own proprietary multi-language price comparison search engine in conjunction with these leading institutions.
Qunar.com represents a significant step in the development of the constantly changing, albeit rapidly growing online travel industry within the region. For the first time, through Qunar.com consumers can quickly, easily and in real-time compare virtually all available prices for air tickets, hotels, car rentals and tour packages. In other words, Qunar.com allows consumers to get the best choices and value.
Qunar.com is the market leader in Asia, and we look forward to meeting the needs of the fast growing travel industry.
Currently, Qunar.com searches almost 400 Chinese-language travel web sites. These search results provide our consumers with real-time pricing information and other descriptive details from more than 100 airlines and 10,000 hotels servicing mainland China.
As the recognized “new star” in the online travel industry, Qunar.com will continue to provide outstanding service and dramatically change the way consumers search and purchase travel services.
The Company’s founders
Frederick “Fritz” Demopoulos has been involved in the Chinese media, internet and wireless industries for over seven years. He is currently a co-founder of Qunar.com. In addition to these current entrepreneurial business activities, Fritz has been an advisor to an array of well-known Chinese and international media companies including Titan Sports, Hai Run Media Group and InterActive Corp. Previously, Fritz was also interim head of business development at Netease.com. He joined Netease in 2001, and was part of the management team that oversaw a period of significant growth for the company, which eventually became the NASDAQ’s best performing equity in 2002. In 1999 Fritz co-founded and became CEO of Shawei.com. Financially backed by Intel Capital, Softbank and IDG, Shawei grew to become China’s largest sports internet portal. Shawei was subsequently acquired by Hutchison Whampoa affiliate The TOM Group in 2000. Fritz began his career in China in 1997 as Business Development Manager for The News Corporation Limited. He was actively involved in a range of initiatives with various News Corp-affiliated companies including ChinaByte.com, STAR TV, NDS and Twentieth Century Fox. A native of Los Angeles, Fritz was educated at UCLA, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Karls-Ruprecht University and Cal State Fullerton. He is an avid golfer, tennis player and supporter of the Arsenal Gunners of the English Premier League.
Zhuang Chenchao “CC” is a recognized expert in internet technologies. He is currently a co-founder of Qunar.com and leads the company’s technology and product development. Prior to Qunar, CC was a member of the Systems Architecture team at the World Bank and was based in Washington DC. At the World Bank he was instrumental in developing a 130-country, 25-language intranet that was awarded “Best Intranet” by Nielsen Norman in 2003. Prior to relocating to Washington, CC was a founding employee and CTO of Shawei, China’s leading sports portal which was acquired by The Tom Group in 2000. In 1998 while still at university, he also co-founded Shanghai Wei Bo Technologies, a first generation text search engine. Shanghai Wei Bo secured early stage investment from IDG, and the company was eventually acquired by ChinaByte, an affiliate of The News Corporation. A native of Shanghai, CC was educated at Beijing University where he received a degree in Electrical Engineering. Among other pursuits, CC enjoys developing mathematical trading models and investing in the stock market.
Douglas Khoo has been involved in both the interactive and traditional advertising and marketing communications business for almost 20 years. He is currently a co-founder of Qunar.com and leads the company’s sales, marketing and business development activities. In addition to Qunar, Douglas is also a co-founder and investor in a range of online marketing service firms, including online advertising agency OneXeno and search engine optimization (SEO) firm Pixel Direct. Douglas is also Asia Director of Unicast, an internet advertising company specializing in rich media that was recently acquired by Viewpoint. Prior to these activities Douglas was a co-founder and Director of Shawei.com. Before pursuing these entrepreneurial opportunities, Douglas had a number of senior management positions during a 15-year career with the WPP group of companies, including Ogilvy & Mather, J. Walter Thompson, M-Digital and Mindshare. Notably he was responsible for Asia for building M-Digital, the online media buying and planning arm of WPP. Additionally, Douglas was GM of China for Mindshare. At WPP he was assigned to work in China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. A native of Malaysia, Douglas earned a diploma in architecture from Jaya Institute of Technology. In his spare time Douglas is an enthusiastic golfer and traveler, and an avid reader of Booker Prize winners.