Something seems different with Airbnb’s latest funding round. And I’m not talking about the size of the round, which is huge, and leaves it valued at US$25.5 billion.
The US$1.5 billion investment round leaked by the Wall Street Journal before the weekend — said to be “one of the biggest private funding rounds ever” — is notable for another reason.
At least four major Asian investors have entered the picture, according to the CrunchBase listing. These are investors that were notably absent from previous rounds into the home-rental giant that has raised US$2.3 billion to date.
Hong Kong’s Horizon Ventures, Singapore’s Temasek Holdings, China’s Hillhouse Capital Group (which has more than US$20 billion in funds), and China Broadband Capital all got a slice of the pie this time around.
Hillhouse has also been in headlines last week for leading a reported US$1 billion round into Uber as it expands in China and takes on local market leader Didi Kuaidi, which we reported today is creeping up on smartphone maker Xiaomi to become China’s second most valuable startup.
We know that Asia is already an important market for Airbnb. China, Korea and Singapore have seen especially strong traction.
The Financial Times last week called Airbnb just the “latest ‘sharing economy’ company from the US to try to tap into booming demand in Asia”.
“The transactions also underscore the growing capital flows between Silicon Valley and China, as well as the surging demand in Asia that has made the region a focus of investment for the US companies,” it added.
A separate report from Bloomberg earlier this month said that Chinese travellers are already Airbnb’s fastest-growing users. That is hardly a surprise given its huge economy and quickly rising middle class.
Among venture-backed startups, only Xiaomi and Uber now carry higher valuations than Airbnb.
It looks like this is part of a wider trend of Asian investors backing some of hottest startups in the US. Alibaba pumped US$200 million into Snapchat in March, and Japan’s Rakuten led a US$530 million funding round into San Francisco ride-sharing startup Lyft, now valued at US$2.5 billion.
This latest news doesn’t exactly buck that trend.