Home > News > Portfolio

Hi Guides (Huangbaoche) Closes US$50 million Series C Round

Gobi participated in the company’s Series A in 2015

By ZeJun Tang, 36Kr


As early as 2015, Gobi Partners has set its sights on the outbound ride-hailing market and in the same year, Gobi participated in Hi Guides’ (also named Huangbaoche) Series A round.

Gobi Partners believes that improving the destination on-site experience may be a land of opportunities in the next three to five years or even longer. The consumer market is getting bigger and bigger, but its pain points have actually not been completely resolved, which contains many opportunities.

Prior to investing in Hi Guides, Gobi Partners conducted extensive research of the online travel scene and found that while opportunities in terms of online traffic entrances are few and far in between, opportunities still exist on-site, especially with non-standard accommodation and driver-cum-guides. Cars are inelastic in demand; they are also the key in outbound ride-hailing and tour-guiding, easing entry into the outbound travel market. Two years have passed and the development of the outbound ride-hailing market is even faster than expected and has far greater potential. Additionally, Hi Guides’ reliance on its customer acquisition funnel has reduced, thanks to Hi Guides’ success in establishing its brand through the services they provide.

36Kr has learned that online ride-hailing and tour-guiding startup Hi Guides has raised US$50 million in its Series C funding round led by Sequoia Capital China and joined by return backers Matrix Partners China and Hexie Aiqi Investment Management.

Previously, 36Kr has covered Hi Guides on multiple occasions: the company mainly serves outbound Chinese by providing driver-cum-travel guide services in Chinese. By connecting users with local service providers through a C2C platform, Hi Guides solves many pain points faced while traveling abroad like language and culture barriers, transport problems and varying service qualities etc., providing in-depth travel experiences to users while generating leads and thus giving income protection to the driver guides.

Since January 2017, when the company closed its Series B+ funding round, the company has made several changes in its business model:

  • On-site destination resource expansion: Hi Guides partners with relevant businesses located in tourism destinations to provide users with tour packages/meals at a discounted price, which Hi Guides then takes a referral fee from. Currently Hi Guides has partnered with over 600 restaurants in Japan, Europe and Australia.


  • Source of Income: In the past, Hi Guides’ main source of income has been from customers booking for services (e.g. airport shuttle, private tours) through OTAs. Such services are highly standardized but the margin is low. Now, thanks to the pool of business partnerships, customers can now plan their entire trip via Hi Guides’ travel app. Hi Guides believes that with more services offered, they can generate more revenue and thus are able to show that the company is heading the right direction.

Speaking on the purpose of this round of financing, Hi Guides CEO Pan Fei tells 36Kr that the company’s ‘venture’ in 2017 has reaped dividends as Hi Guides’ business model has been proven to be a success. The new round of funding will be mainly used for brand building, talent acquisition, and the exploring of business partnerships with more businesses in tourist destinations:

  • Brand building is a broad goal. Hi Guides constantly explores ways to reduce customer acquisition cost and increase brand awareness, such as increasing the advertising density in first-tier cities in China.


  • Talent acquisition is for the future development of the company, such as employing algorithm engineers to push more relevant consumer information to tourists and improve conversion rates. Another example is different countries with different policies and regulations, drivers face issues such as can the driver operate his/her own vehicle for business? Hi Guides is establishing its own legal team to tackle such issues, to ensure the business is successful in different countries.


  • Facing merchants from different regions, the bargaining power of Hi Guides comes from having enough driver guides connected, so exploring of business partnerships with businesses in more cities is also one of its next development goals.

The high cost of customer acquisition online has always been a problem that Internet companies have to face, and Pan feels that only when services are better than what customers expect, can they retain customers and even gain customer referrals. Hence the company sees driver guide management and service quality control as a very crucial factor in corporate governance, and has a few strategies to solve this issue:

  • First, by setting up offices in different cities and train driver guides offline. This is currently the best method available, but the costs are too high;
  • Next, Hi Guides implemented a new policy: in 2018 all regional managers are required to be stationed overseas for more than six months to allow more interaction with local driver guides and focusing on improving overall levels of service;
  • Constantly iterating management and control standards, improving the driver guide evaluation system;    
  • Finally, through cultural export, establishing positive values ​​among the driver guide community, and enhancing the sense of belonging.

According to data provided by Hi Guides, the number of users in Hi Guides’ travel app has increased eight-fold in the past year, while the average booking value has also increased by 250%. The logic behind this is due to the increasing number of travellers opting for customized private tours and the entire travel market experiencing an escalation in spending. According to Pan, the gradually clearer business model plus the gradual improvement of operational data played a big role in securing this latest round of funding.

If Hi Guides can only provide outbound ride-hailing services to tourists, it will easily succumb itself to competitors as there is (a) no barriers to competition, and (b) no brand essence. As such, one can imagine Hi Guides’ future to be adding more value to its private tours, such as partnering with more businesses that cater to tourists. By participating in more consumer spending through reliable and diversified services, the company can better retain their users, and at the same time, achieve better margins. Although the frequency of outbound travel is low, the market of outbound tourism is increasing, so whether Hi Guides can rely on private tours to realize their expectations is something we will have to wait and see.