Loco Partners, a Tokyo-based startup that runs Relux, a membership-based accommodation booking site, has secured 500 million yen (or about US$4.5 million) in funding, led by KDDI Open Innovation Fund, one of Japan's three largest mobile carriers.
In 2014, Loco Partners previously raised 330 million yen (or about $3.1 million) in funding, led by Recruit Holdings.
Like Gilt Groupe-owned Voyage Privé and TripAdvisor-owned Jetsetter, Relux is an accommodations agency that only reveals prices to people who sign up for free membership.
The tactic enables the website to post discounted rates on upscale hotels, inns, and ryokans around Japan without sparking a price war with other sites thanks to the members-only veil.
Like most other private-sale sites, Relux says it vets which properties it lists by sending its employees for inspections. (It has 40 employees.)
Remarkably, four out of five of Relux's customers access its service via smartphone browsers.
CEO Takaya Shinozuka said in a statement that the investment will include marketing opportunities to cross-promote his travel service with the smartphone customers of KDDI's service.
KDDI has about 40 million customers for its "au Smart Pass" program, a paid membership program that offers access to discounts and other services. Relux properties might be incorporated into it.
The investment shows that there is still niche potential in the private sale concept.