It’s hard not to be intrigued by the bits of information that have filtered out of stealthy startup New Travelco. It’s from Expedia, Zillow and Glassdoor founder Rich Barton, along with other “early Expedians” including Greg Slyngstad, co-founder of VacationSpot and board member of Kayak. And it’s already raised $9.8 million from General Catalyst Partners, Ignition Partners and Benchmark Capital (where Barton is also a venture partner), and recently acquired TravelPost (a TripAdvisor competitor focused on hotels) from Kayak, giving Kayak equity in return.
So what is New Travelco doing? Barton tells us that the company is “re-thinking travel planning” given “the big travel sites were all conceived in a different era.” Slyngstad’s idea to buy TravelPost was actually the genesis of the company, according to Barton, who is serving as chairman while Slyngstad is CEO. TravelPost does accept user reviews but it’s more of an aggregator, parsing and combining hotel reviews from places like Yahoo and BedandBreakfast.com.
“Online travel is a massive space and will continue to evolve,” Slyngstad added via email. “When Kayak was launched in 2005, people were asking the same question about startup going against 4 very big, entrenched players. Kayak has built a sizable, highly profitable business and is now nipping at the heels of the big entrenched players.” Barton also pointed to the “heterogeneous” nature of the travel category as reason there’s room for another successful player.
In a sort of mission statement on its web site, New Travelco says it believes “The increasing power of transparency, connectivity, and mobility will continue to open new worlds to travelers and new channels for suppliers.”
As far as opportunities to innovate go, TripAdvisor, one of the original user-generated sites that’s actually owned by Expedia, is somewhat hip with the times — it has the requisite Facebook Connect integration and iPhone app, though there’s certainly more that could be done. In terms of trip planning, the current hotshot is TripIt, which offers nifty integrations to help travelers organize and access their travel information on the go. But it’s not the only one who does that; Kayak, for instance, recently added similar features to its popular iPhone app.
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