China’s emerging middle class is hitting the road. After decades of economic and political barriers, the winners of China’s capitalist surge are using their cash and freedom to travel the world. Despite current Chinese economic crisis, China’s travel market grew 19% in 2015, according to Barron’s. The investment magazine, in a bullish article on China travel firm Ctrip, cited a report by Goldman Sachs that says China travel spending could triple to $200 billion by 2020–a number that would make it larger than the U.S. market.
Now some top technology entrepreneurs are betting that the number of students studying abroad will follow that same steep trend line. On February 1o, Student.com–a housing marketplace for international students–scored $60 million from tech players like VY Capital’s Alexander Tomas, Spotify founders Daniel Ek and Martin Lorentzon, Xiaomi’s Hugo Barra and Li Ka Shing’s Horizons Ventures. VY Capital led the combined Series B and C round.
Founded in 2011 by U.K. born, Shanghai-based entrepreneur Luke Nolan, Student.com connects international students with safe, long-term lodging. Last year, the site booked $110 million worth of stays. The company has 200 employees from 35 nationalities and offices in London, Shanghai, New York and Hong Kong. In 2015, Student.com housed students from 100 different countries in apartments across more than 420 different cities. While the majority of Nolan’s customers come from China, he sees fast growth in India, South Korea and Nigeria. “Students are traveling more, and whether it’s for study abroad or for their masters degrees, they are more mobile than ever,” says Nolan. “Their parents want them to travel and gain international experience.”