Singapore start-up BeMyGuest on list of top innovators

Mr Wong and Ms Blanca Menchaca, co-founders of BeMyGuest, which was named one of the 50 most innovative companies in the world by US innovation magazine Fast Company.
Mr Wong and Ms Blanca Menchaca, co-founders of BeMyGuest, which was named one of the 50 most innovative companies in the world by US innovation magazine Fast Company.PHOTO: BEMYGUEST

Singapore travel-related start-up BeMyGuest has been named as one of the 50 most innovative companies in the world for taking Asian travellers off the beaten track.

Fast Company, an American innovation and entrepreneurship magazine listed BeMyGuest in 33rd place, beating the likes of hotel chain Marriott and hotel and airlines ticketing firm The Priceline Group.

Started in 2012, BeMyGuest has an online booking platform that connects travellers visiting Asian countries to 13,000 experiences in more than 700 cities in the region.

It offers activities such as driving a Maserati sports car, cooking classes, batik painting, visits to theme parks and watching the sunrise at Indonesia's Borobudur temple.

Initially the start-up provided ticketing and hotel accommodation, but later switched to focus only on Asian tours and activities.

It then gained strength by inking partnerships with tour operators and agencies and selling activities in bulk to them. The start-up also sells activities and tours directly to consumers.

In a citation, Fast Company said BeMyGuest's competitive advantage for this year is its deep and wide-ranging relationships with Asian tour operators. It has also been able to fend off bigger players like online travel firm Expedia.

Fast Company associate editor Alexa Jaccarino told The Straits Times in an e-mail interview that she is interested in the sector BeMyGuest is in - the increasingly popular area of experience- based travel.

Her editors were looking for the best examples of this trend. They found BeMyGuest and were impressed by its innovation and impact on the travel industry, she added.

BeMyGuest co-founder Clement Wong started the business as he found there were not enough resources available to members of Asia's rising middle class wanting to visit the region independently without signing up with tour groups.

"Our partners, like travel agencies, can offer their customers our activities via our software. They identify the activities they like, make the bookings and get the e-tickets immediately. The process is very convenient and fast," he said.

His platform - linked to his travel agency partners - also lets them make same-day bookings for local tours and activities.

"Previously the travel agencies had to go to different countries to buy the different tours and activities in bulk, then ship the tickets to themselves. Then their customers buy from them. Today, everything is digital. There is greater convenience because there are no queues."

The start-up employs 50 people and has raised US$4 million (S$5.6 million) to date for developing the technology and for business expansion. It has offices here and in the Philippines. A new office in Hangzhou, China, will open soon.

Online media firm Buzzfeed topped Fast Company's global and most innovative and top 50 companies. BeMyGuest is the only Singapore firm on the list.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 22, 2016, with the headline 'Singapore start-up BeMyGuest on list of top innovators'. Print Edition | Subscribe