Eco-tourism company Big Tiny raises $3 million in Pre-Series A funding

Big Tiny’s founders David Ng, Jeff Yeo, Adrian Chia

Big Tiny, has raised $3 million (AU$4.2 million) in pre-Series A funding, as VCs and consumers back sustainable accommodation and the tourism bounces back from COVID slumber.

This round of funding gives the business a valuation cap of US$22.5 million (AU$31 million).

Big Tiny designs and manufactures tiny homes in Singapore and has two bases in Australia – Sydney and Melbourne – where the company assembles the houses and then deploys them in partnership with host landowners.

City dwellers looking for a post-lockdown break can book a tiny house stay through Big Tiny’s accommodation platform, Tiny Away.

There were 45 tiny houses in Tiny Away’s portfolio in NSW and Victoria and they doubled in 2021 to nearly 100 across NSW, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, and Tasmania.

The round was led by a prominent Singaporean businessman, Koh Boon Hwee, along with Phillip Private Equity, GPPC Capital Limited, and Ascend Angels.

This latest funding will be used to build on Big Tiny’s momentum, fuelling further growth in Australia as well as an anticipated expansion into the New Zealand market in 2022.

Adrian Chia, the Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Big Tiny is buoyant.

“The Big Tiny family is ecstatic because our vision has been to build a sustainable tourism business that both changes and challenges the holiday accommodation landscape.”

Koh Boon Hwee also commented saying, “We have been impressed by Big Tiny’s growth, which has enjoyed strong demand despite widespread industry disruption.”

“To have grown a company during the pandemic is incredible and speaks to the value they deliver to their customers. Their eco-credentials also really stand out.”

“Investors, particularly in the travel and tourism space, are increasingly realizing that you can marry good economics with being good for the environment,” he added.

Big Tiny is exploring the semi-automation of its manufacturing process to further improve production capacity and capability. The company will also look to scale up capabilities across building, sales, marketing, land sourcing and management.

“Big Tiny is planning to open an additional 300 tiny houses over the next year in Australia and New Zealand, and we are constantly engaged in R&D to improve the sustainable technology that’s integrated into our dwellings,” Chia added.

The big business of tiny houses

Founded in 2017, Big Tiny was the brainchild of Chia, who was inspired by a holiday to Victoria’s Great Ocean Road to escape the grind of Singapore city life in a tranquil rural setting.

Chia realized there was a huge opportunity to use the tiny house concept to help landowners open their beautiful natural surroundings to a huge market of city dwellers keen to escape.

Adrian developed the concept further with friends, Jeff Yeo and Dave Ng, and the trio brought together their varied expertise in material science, branding, and marketing to launch Big Tiny.

Over the past 12 months, its tiny house portfolio has doubled and for the first half of 2021, Big Tiny saw year-on-year revenue growth of almost 260%.

The business has also increased its headcount in 2021, now employing approximately 30 people across Singapore, Malaysia, and Australia.

“The tiny house market is well and truly booming,” said co-founder and COO Dave Ng.

“We can’t wait to grow our footprint in New South Wales and Victoria, and further expand in South Australia, Queensland and Tasmania, eventually crossing the ditch into New Zealand.”

The shift to traveling small

The idea of a tiny house stay has become a growing tourism movement, rising in popularity across Australia. The Tiny Away brand not only appeals to stressed-out city dwellers looking for an escape but also to travelers keen to reduce their environmental footprint.

“Our ethos is centered on reducing resource consumption and environmental impact without sacrificing the quality of accommodation,” added Chia.

This success is indicative of a broader trend in startups with sustainability at their core.

Australian landowners themselves have also played a huge role in Big Tiny’s growth – the company primarily works with owners of privately-owned land within a few hours of the city, who host and maintain the houses while sharing a cut of the earned revenue.

The pandemic has shaken, but not stirred the demand

When Australia’s national lockdown restrictions eased, they were back with a bang and the story has been similar since restrictions eased in NSW and Victoria in recent months.

Jeff Yeo, the Co-Founder and Chief Marketing Officer of Big Tiny gave additional insights.

“When national restrictions eased in June 2020, in that month alone we saw a 200% increase in the number of bookings. At the end of 2020, we saw a 660% increase in bookings compared to the first pre-COVID quarter of the year.”

“In Victoria, we saw a huge increase in bookings after their second lockdown. Our Serenity Abode tiny house in the Yarra Valley had a 40% increase compared to pre-COVID.”

The opportunities for potential tiny home buyers were not being missed with inquiries from people interested in owning a tiny home jumping by 30% in the last half of 2020.