Gebr. Heinemann ‘vision hub’ GHARAGE to back travel and retail start-ups in Asia

ASIA PACIFIC. Gebr. Heinemann’s ‘vision hub’ GHARAGE is launching a Singapore office to invest and innovate with early-stage travel and retail start-ups in the Asia Pacific region.

GHARAGE APAC will expand its investing capabilities from its Hamburg base to Asia, backing pre-seed to Series A start-ups.

As reported, GHARAGE (created in March 2020) builds and invests in start-ups within travel and retail under the Heinemann mission ‘to turn travel time into valuable time’ for travellers. GHARAGE currently has a portfolio of diverse ventures, including an on-demand airport delivery platform, a web3 community for whisky collectibles and a new luxury retail experience for airports.

Opening new doors at GHARAGE: New APAC representative Darren Soh (left) and Managing Director Lennard Niemann

GHARAGE Managing Director Lennard Niemann said: “We have witnessed founders in Asia build some of the fastest growing and innovative companies in the travel and retail ecosystem. Our launch seeks to unlock opportunities for founders to tap into the travel and retail ecosystem that Gebr. Heinemann has built globally, and to bring Asia’s innovations to global travellers.”

With its launch, GHARAGE has appointed its first investment professional in Singapore, Darren Soh, as Head of GHARAGE APAC, from February.

Soh added: “We’re here to back founders who are looking to build the future of travel and retail. We believe that this is the time for Asia – companies are emerging not only as local or regional players, but global powerhouses in their respective fields. We seek to help fuel the APAC region in the retail and travel ecosystem and to deliver external innovation to Gebr. Heinemann.”

GHARAGE created Amber Island, a new community dedicated to rare whisky, in August 2022

Asked by The Moodie Davitt Report what market niches would be most attractive to GHARAGE in Asia Pacific, the company said: “We will still be focused on early-stage start-ups within the travel and retail verticals in Asia, but we are expecting to see more tech and digital solutions as compared to Europe where consumer brands are more prevalent. Some of the core areas that we want to focus on in the area of travel and retail are personalised services, decentralised solutions, smart technologies and phygital environments.”

While the company did not provide details of pipeline plans, it noted that the backing of Gebr. Heinemann could provide “strategic levers” for GHARAGE and founders it works with.

“GHARAGE is well-positioned to support our portfolio companies not just financially, but also strategically, especially for companies looking to enter the Europe market from Asia, and vice versa. We understand communication and navigation challenges of start-ups trying to partner large corporates, and of corporates trying to work with start-ups. In these scenarios, we seek to act as a facilitator between the Gebr. Heinemann and start-ups that we back to enable partnerships, depending on the needs of both parties on a case-by-case basis,” it noted.

Gebr. Heinemann and media company Highsnobiety struck a long-term partnership last year to develop the GATEZERO brand in travel retail, leading to the first store opening at Copenhagen Airport. The cooperation was developed by GHARAGE Managing Director Lennard Niemann.

GHARAGE is headquartered in Hamburg, Germany working in the fields of foresight and intelligence, venture building and venture investing.

Gebr. Heinemann operates more than 500 duty free and travel retail shops, brand boutiques and concept stores at international airports, border crossings and cruise ships, with its presence in Asia Pacific including airports such as Sydney and Kuala Lumpur. ✈

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