By Denis Barrier, Simon Wu, and Costanza Carissimo
Studies show that more than half of US tech unicorns are founded by immigrants. When we met Peek’s founders, we were immediately convinced that Ruzwana Bashir and Oskar Bruening embodied the spirit and dedication that you can only really have when you come from abroad with the idea to create something big and special from scratch in the US.
Ruzwana Bashir is not your ordinary Silicon Valley entrepreneur. From the very beginning, her unique story and fresh perspectives captivated our team at Cathay Innovation. Before starting her travel company Peek, she already had a long list of accolades. After growing up in Northern England, Ruzwana became president of the prestigious Oxford Union debating society. She then started her career working in finance at Goldman Sachs and Blackstone Private Equity, but it wasn’t until attending Harvard Business School on a Fulbright scholarship that she discovered her passion for entrepreneurship.
In just a few short years, Ruzwana has established a name for herself within the tech scene. While many publications caught on to Ruzwana as a rising star, it was her passion, clear thinking, and integrity that resonated with our team. It’s no surprise that some of Silicon Valley’s most influential leaders — such as Google’s Eric Schmidt, Twitter’s Jack Dorsey, and Trulia’s Pete Flint — have come onboard early on to support Ruzwana’s journey.
Peek is an online platform that helps merchants manage their overall business while enabling travelers to book local activities online. Launched in 2012, Peek now processes hundreds of millions of dollars on its platform and offers over 10,000 bookable activities with 500,000 verified reviews and ratings on its best experiences.
As Ruzwana and Oskar prepared Peek to scale globally, they built a second Peek office in Salt Lake City. This was intentional. Many scaling Silicon Valley companies that we meet today must build a distributed operation to be efficient, and the Peek team clearly saw the trend and built this out early on. This also gave them an opportunity to bring diverse ideas and newfound energy into the business.
While Peek initially focused on smaller merchants, we have started to see larger and larger merchants adopting their Peek Pro software tools with great success. Over the last year, Peek has seen a steady uptick in larger accounts switching to its innovative and market-leading platform. New distribution partners like Google and Yelp will also help Peek continue scaling while expanding their business model. And with the recent acquisitions of competitive software systems, Peek is uniquely positioned as THE independent leader, relentlessly focused on providing the best tools for tour operators and bridging the online and offline worlds of local activities.
Together, this has set the foundation for Peek to make its biggest moves yet. Travel leaders clearly see that the market is moving towards local experiences and Peek.com is well positioned to capitalize on having the largest selection of activities in the US, all instantly bookable in real-time.
One of the tenets of Cathay Innovation’s platform is to help connect local rising startups with global companies to enable collaboration. We are therefore incredibly excited to help support the growth of Peek with Cathay’s global platform. Enabling new partnerships with leading companies in our ecosystem and unlocking opportunities in new geographies will only be some of the initiatives that we can help with in their path to being the next big online travel provider.
We deeply share the global mindset of the founders and Denis couldn’t be more thrilled to partner with Ruzwana and Oskar on Peek’s board.
As consumer preferences shift from material goods to experiences, we feel that the needle has just started to move and the best is yet to come. To Ruzwana, Oskar, and the rest of the Peek team, welcome to the Cathay family!