* GetYourGuide has sold 25 mln tickets for tours and activities
* Looks to ramp up branded 'Originals' product
* Bali Instagram Tour a hit with millennial travellers - CEO
* Vision Fund makes second German investment after Auto1
By Douglas Busvine
FRANKFURT, May 16 (Reuters) - Berlin travel startup GetYourGuide said on Thursday it had raised nearly $500 million from investors led by SoftBank's Vision Fund to expand its online offering of tours and activities that has won a following among millennials.
GetYourGuide, which has sold 25 million tickets since it was founded a decade ago, wants to invest some proceeds from the so-called Series E funding round into its "Originals" branded product that it launched last August.
The company's booking platform runs on a similar model to the one pioneered by ride hailing company Uber, connecting tourists with travel "experiences" in exchange for a commission.
CEO and co-founder Johannes Reck estimates the market to be worth $150 billion, and with no player controlling a share of more than 2%, and four out of five bookings being made offline, he sees huge room for growth.
"We aim to capture the lion's share of the market, then help it grow and mature further by placing experiences at the centre of the travel-planning journey," Reck told Reuters in an email interview.
The equity investment by the Vision Fund, the world's largest venture fund, is only its second in Germany - and in mainland Europe - after it backed used-car trading platform Auto1, also based in Berlin, in January 2018.
SoftBank was joined in the $484 million funding round by Temasek, Lakestar and Heartcore Capital. Earlier backers including Swisscanto Invest also contributed, GetYourGuide said.
With its Originals product, GetYourGuide is going beyond simple curation to put its seal of approval on tours run by its top local partners.
One hit has been its Bali Instagram Tour, designed for travellers to take and post scenic pictures of their trip on the photo-sharing social network owned by Facebook.
"We had a broad range of excursions in Bali at the time, but we repeatedly heard from millennial customers that they wanted a tour dedicated to photographing the most beautiful parts of the island," he said.
"So, together with a top supplier, we created this product, which is now one of our best-selling experiences in Asia," he said. GetYourGuide now offers more than 50 Instagram tours worldwide.
Reck declined to disclose GetYourGuide's financials but said his focus was on building market share, rather than achieving profitability in the near term. A stock market flotation was a longer-term possibility.
GetYourGuide said the funding round valued it in the "unicorn" category, making it worth more than $1 billion, but declined to be specific.
Asked how often travellers used GetYourGuide, Reck said its own research showed they typically booked between three and five experiences per trip - a metric that has improved over the past two years.
GetYourGuide also said it had hired Arneet Ranadive, formerly of Instagram and Twitter, as its first chief product officer. Nils Chrestin joins as chief financial officer from Global Fashion Group, an online fashion and lifestyle firm.
Ted Fike, partner at SoftBank Investment Advisers, will take a seat on the GetYourGuide board. (Reporting by Douglas Busvine; Editing by Mark Potter)