Hong Kong start-up Tink Labs nabs US$125m funding to fuel global expansion

Travel and hospitality tech specialist gets bulk of new financing from HK-listed FIH Mobile, a subsidiary of the Foxconn Technology Group

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 28 September, 2016, 5:54pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 28 September, 2016, 10:48pm

Hong Kong travel technology start-up Tink Labs plans to step up its international expansion after raising US$125 million in a new round of funding from FIH Mobile, veteran investor Lee Kai-fu’s Sinovation Ventures and Cai Wensheng, the chairman of smartphone app provider Meitu.

The deal marks the second-largest investment made in a Hong Kong start-up this year, following the US$160 million in financing received by online lending platform operator WeLab in January.

Founded in 2012, Tink Labs is best known for its flagship “handy” smartphone and online service provided to guests in about 100,000 rooms at three- to five-star hotels in 15 cities around the world.

“We’re now looking at deploying our devices and service in more than 1 million three-, four- and five-star hotel rooms in more than 100 cities by the end of 2017,” Terence Kwok, the founder and chief executive of Tink Labs, told the South China Morning Post.

“The investors want me to scale very rapidly and that’s exactly what we’re going to do.”

Tink Labs’ handy device is typically provided free by its partner hotels to their guests, who get the functionality of a personal smartphone with internet access, hotel in-room service, city guide and more in one system.

Partners include luxury properties like The Ritz London, The Fullerton Singapore and The St Regis Istanbul, as well as leading chains such as Starwood Hotels and Resorts, AccorHotels, Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts, InterContinental Hotel Group, Hyatt Hotels and Meliá Hotels International.

“We will continue to invest in enhancing handyto address the fast-growing international demand from our hotel partners,” Kwok said. “Our team is now able to support hotels anywhere in the world in going live with handy within days.”

The 24-year-old Kwok said Tink Labs, where he remains the youngest employee, plans to triple the number of its staff around the world by the end of this year from about 130 at present. New hires will include staff in engineering, sales and marketing, human resources, technical support and logistics.

“We’re also looking at some small mergers and acquisition activity,” Kwok said. “We’re even exploring a joint venture with Sharp in Japan.”

He estimated the Series C funding that Tink Labs closed this week brought the total financing raised by the company to more than US$170 million.

FIH Mobile not only serves as the contract electronics manufacturer for handy smartphones, but is also the largest equity investor in Tink Labs. Hong Kong-listed FIH Mobile is a subsidiary of Taiwan’s Hon Hai Precision Industry, known widely under its trade name of Foxconn Technology Group.

According to Kwok, FIH Mobile contributed about US$110 million in the latest financing round after investing US$13 million in the previous round in November.

Vincent Tong Wen-hsin, FIH Mobile chairman, said the company’s investment and hardware expertise contributes to the handy platform’s delivery of “an enriched service experience to hotels and their customers”.

Meitu chairman Cai added that “over 50 per cent of hotels in Hong Kong and Singapore are already using handy to drive revenue and build customer loyalty” .

Citing two years of independent research, Kwok said hotel guests are willing to pay an additional US$21 for a night’s stay in a room equipped with handy. “We expect this dollar amount to multiply as we release additional feature enhancements,” Kwok said.