BY CNA Team - October 2, 2018
Special Features 0
Wegogo first to put Asia’s hard-to-find travel experiences on the blockchain
Four years ago, jet ski enthusiast Mak Chee Wah was enjoying a three-hour ride off the island of Langkawi in Malaysia. Maneuvering through the breathtaking waters and smaller islands, Mak had a profound realisation – had he not ventured into this route on his own, he would not have known about it.
And neither would any other traveller.
That got him thinking. There are hundreds if not thousands of great travel experiences, provided by small operators, described as the ‘long tail’ of the Asian travel industry. They rarely get promoted by the big agents and platforms; leaving them undiscovered, and unknown.
Mak then married those thoughts with the following facts :
- that in 2015 China topped the global outbound tourism number at 120 million travellers
- China outbound tourist numbers are expected to double to 220 million by 2025
- it is becoming increasingly fashionable especially for the millennial travellers from China to have authentic travel experiences
- small travel operators not only need to get noticed by markets like China, they also need to be given a fairer deal by platforms in the travel industry
With that idea in mind, Mak approached a long time friend, venture capitalist Wong Toon King.
CryptoNewsAsia caught up with Wong at the sidelines of the recent Consensus Singapore event.
“I listened with great interest. To be honest, I was not looking to be part of any big venture, having listed two companies on Nasdaq, and done a lot of other tech related initiatives. But Mak was persuasive. The idea and plan sounded more and more interesting as we went along,” recalls 52-year-old Wong, one of Singapore’s top Internet pioneers.
Mak is now the founder and CEO of Wegogo while Wong is its chairman.
Wong says they then recruited a few more people to form a core team of five and in 2015, they secured S$500,000 in angel funding. Since then, they have built the platform and gone live with it. They had raised another S$1mil in seed funding last year and this year secured another S$1.2mil in a pre-series A round.
Wegogo is in the midst of an initial coin offering (ICO) to raise US$28mil, calling their tokens WeGold.
Under their beta version of the platform, the team at Wegogo had painstakingly onboarded small travel providers in Southeast Asia who are collectively, offering over 400 experiences on 12 island destinations in the region. Think along the lines of the jet ski ride in Langkawi or a hidden away “babi guling” stall on the Island of Bali. These experiences are not featured on established OTAs (Online Travel Agencies) such as Ctrip, Tuniu and AliTrip.
Wong is quick to point out that Wegogo is not going after hotel room and flight bookings. “That game is over – the biggest and strongest will survive. We are after the much smaller and less organised array of service providers who can offer unique experiences to travelers.”
The platform has already registered more than 10,000 transactions, mostly by matching travelers from China to these experiences in the region.
There are more than 170,000 registered users on their platform already.
Enter the blockchain.
“The platform is ready and we are ready to scale, which is why are building on the blockchain,” explains Wong.
Part of the tokenomics is to use the WeGold token to reward the ‘PathFinders’ in the Wegogo ecosystem.
“We call this the pathfinder peer-to-peer model. Discovering and onboarding the thousands of small travel and tourism operators the world over is a task no single organisation can do it by itself. Hence the idea to incentivise pathfinders who will be made up of ordinary people who love to travel and enjoy new experiences. They are encouraged to post their experiences. Our team does a basic verification and onboarding process. The pathfinder is rewarded by token issuances according to how popular his posted experience had been. You could say that the pathfinder is the miner in our ecosystem,” explains Wong.
The pathfinder concept will be launched in the first quarter of 2019.
By 2020, Wegogo intends to cover 125 destinations and have 16,000 activities for bookings.
The idea is also to explore providing micro-tourism financing.
“We hope to gain insights into how the small operators in the region operate, and into their booking activities so we can help them grow.
They typically have no credit history which will be remedied by our platform which includes logs on their usage and demand. With that we can provide micro-financing to tourism players to encourage sustainable tourism. We are happy to work with international agencies to grow this further,” says Wong.
Wong explains that the decent number on their platform now is just through organic growth. “We are just starting. We are exploring partnerships to scale up the community quickly,” he says.