The startup world is littered with social travel apps and sites, with another “Pinterest for travel” seeming to pop up nearly every week. It makes sense that entrepreneurs are interested in the industry, because travelers spend a lot of money, and they spend it on new services and experiences. But at this point, sites putting Facebook connect on top of local search or photos are a dime a dozen.
However, Mozio could be an exception to the heavily saturated market. The San Francisco-based startup provides a database of ground transportation options and prices for travelers getting to and from the airport . Mozio is currently in private beta but users can request to join and it will launch publicly on Oct. 19. Mozio will start out with the San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose airports, but hopes to hit the top 40 airports by the end of the calendar year. The company has financial backing from the chairman of Orbitz and several angel investors.
CEO David Litwak, a recent graduate of UC Berkeley who’s traveled to more than 60 countries, said that he and his co-founder explored all sorts of travel sites that attempt to get a traveler from point A to point B. He said they quickly discovered that while flights are easy to search, getting to and from the airport is a whole lot trickier.
“What we realized was that the hardest part to pull together was the first and final mile,” he said. “This ist he hardest part of the problem and no one is really doing it right now.”
In cities like San Francisco, where Mozio will debut in October, options for ground transportation from SFO to the city are numerous. Travelers could take a limo, taxi, shuttle service, Lyft car, Uber car, Sidecar ride, or BART, among multiple options. Mozio is working to create databases for individual cities that allow travelers to search any of their ground transportation options to and from the airport, comparing prices and services just as sites like Kayak do for flights.
No one needs to tell Litwak about the abundance of travel startups coming out of Silicon Valley. He wrote a blog post in February titled “3 reasons why I don’t use recent travel startups,” which he said made him a few enemies in the space but provoked an interesting discussion. In the post, he argued that most startups aren’t doing true hacking or are using tech to solve things that aren’t actual problems.
Mozio will launch in San Francisco, but Litwak said they have extensive data for New York, Washington D.C., and Boston, and they hope to be in the top 40 airports by the end of 2012. He said that about 60 percent of transportation options in cities can be imported into their database from publicly-available information, but the rest of the information takes a good deal of research and work to compile, especially if Mozio is to reach local gems that might not have great web presences.
Litwak said he hopes that eventually, the business will become profitable enough that travel companies will import their own information, making expansion to new markets even easier. The company currently takes a 5 percent comission on options booked through Mozio, although Litwak said that could rise to 10 or 15 percent as they scale the business.