Oyo, a six-year-old hotel startup that has already grown to dominate the budget hospitality scene in India and China, is setting its sights on the U.S. and has just landed in the Pacific Northwest. The company is establishing an office in Seattle’s Pioneer Square neighborhood that will be home to Oyo’s regional sales, operations, finance and product teams, GeekWire has learned.
Seattle is just one city in a massive global expansion for Oyo, which is the third-largest hotel chain in the world by the number of rooms. In the U.S., the startup operates more than 50 hotels in 35 cities, including Dallas, Houston, Atlanta and Miami. Oyo said earlier this year that it plans to invest $300 million in the states, with Dallas serving as the firm’s U.S. headquarters.
Heading up Oyo’s Seattle office and the company’s Northwest operations is Alejandro Chouza, who was previously general manager of Uber’s Northwest operations, working out of the company’s engineering center in Seattle. Chouza also helped launch Uber’s operations in Mexico; before that, he`was a senior product manager at Microsoft and co-founder of Tio Labs, a pharmaceutical manufacturer based in Mexico that was acquired.
Chouza told GeekWire that Seattle has “immense business value” for Oyo, but declined to elaborate on hiring plans. Of the 106 nationwide job openings on LinkedIn, Oyo lists 17 jobs for the Seattle area and is hiring for everything from designers to software engineers.
“I truly believe that no matter how much money you have in your pocket, everybody deserves to be able to stay in a clean bed and a safe environment, and I am humbly proud to see how OYO is addressing this need-gap,” Chouza said in a statement. “…There is massive potential for Oyo in the northwest USA and I am confident that Oyo will become one of the top hotel companies in the Northwest by next year.”
OYO is one of more than 100 out-of-town tech companies that have set up outposts in the Seattle region, which is also home to travel giant Expedia.
“Our expansion and growth story is supported by the efforts of over 17,000 OYOpreneurs (employees) across the globe and we are positive that the quality of talent Alejandro brings to the table will chart our successful course in the U.S.,” Oyo founder and CEO Ritesh Agarwal said.
The story of Oyo’s hyperbolic success is the stuff of startup legend.
Agarwal founded the company when he was only 19 years old with the idea that he could transform thousands of small, independently-owned hotels into a global chain. Agarwal’s booking platform and franchise model went gangbusters, and six years later the startup now oversees 850,000 rooms worldwide across 800 cities. Half of those rooms are in China, making Oyo the largest hotel brand in the country.
Majority investor SoftBank; Sequoia Capital; Airbnb; and other high-profile backers have invested $1.6 billion into Oyo. The startup was valued at $10 billion last week after Agarwal repurchased $2 billion in company shares from investors Sequoia and Lightspeed.
From the customer’s point of view, the appeal of Oyo is startling affordability — a king-size bed in Jackson, Miss. currently goes fo $32 per night — along with clean rooms and seamless technology that includes easy booking and demand-based pricing. Oyo is betting that dynamic pricing, which lowers room rates to fill more beds, can make cheap hotels profitable.
In addition to the hotel franchise, Oyo also operates an Airbnb-like home rental business and recently moved into coworking, establishing 20 locations across 10 cities in India.