Singapore-based BonAppetour, an ‘Airbnb for home dining’, has raised a seed round worth US$500 000, it announced today. The investment comes from entrepreneur and investor Wong Toon King and telecommunications infrastructure contractor firm Prasetia Dwidharma.
BonAppetour helps travellers find local hosts who invite them to enjoy home-cooked meals. It adds an online social layer to having people over for dinner and gives visitors a chance to connect with a local culture through food and hospitality.
The startup was founded in 2013 and started building a community in tourist havens across Europe, such as Paris, Rome, and Barcelona. The team curates its hosts before they get on the platform, often by visiting their homes and sampling their cooking. It also makes sure that the hosts comply with hygiene regulations in the countries they’re based in.
“The sharing economy space has been heating up, and now people are getting more and more open to the idea of dining with locals, compared to three years ago when we started the business,” BonAppetour CEO and co-founder Rinita Vanjre Ravi tells Tech in Asia.
“In fact, our past diners keep coming back to us mentioning how BonAppetour was the highlight of their trip, and keep requesting for BonAppetour experiences in newer cities. We knew it was time to increase our presence,” she adds.
The startup will use the funding to build up its community in other markets it’s active in, like Tokyo, Bangkok, and Melbourne. Travellers can find hosts in over 75 cities around the world.
Cultivating its community is a key part of growing the company. “We believe in the power of community to build a company, and especially a company like ours in the sharing economy space,” Rinita explains.
This will help get new hosts on the service to provide more options to users. It will also be a good way to keep curating the hosts to provide quality services even as demand increases.
The seed funding will allow the company to pursue its plans for the next 18 months before it has to worry about more funding.
The fact that both investors in this round have been entrepreneurs themselves was a key part of working with them. “They have valuable advice and insight into the different aspects of building our business [globally],” Rinita says.
BonAppetour has achieved 40 percent month-on-month growth in terms of guest and host numbers in the last six months, although it doesn’t give the figures. It says it has more than 500 verified hosts on the platform who have hosted “thousands of guests.”
The food travel market worldwide is worth about US$12 billion annually according to BonAppetour. But it might be tough for a startup with such a specific offering to keep growing, especially if sharing economy heavyweights like Airbnb decide to add this to their services.
Rinita isn’t too worried about that. “They have indeed been experimenting in this space, but we see this as a validation on how lucrative the market is, and the potential it has in store for us,” she says.
Feature image via Tech in Asia.