Hotel deals startup Hotel Tonight is growing up fast. Almost two years into its existence of bringing iOS and Android users the best last-minute room deals at handpicked hotels, the San Francisco company is making its first acquisition: fellow SF startup PrimaTable. Oddly enough, PrimaTable isn’t in the hotel business at all. It makes software that helps people snag hard-to-get reservations at exclusive restaurants based on openings it finds. But Hotel Tonight’s CEO says the businesses are actually very similar and will help Hotel Tonight improve its own game, which is helping hotels match their supply of rooms with people searching for last-minute lodging.
PrimaTable was founded in early 2012. The two co-founders, CEO Jamie Davidson and Colin Zima (both former Googlers), will become VP of Product and Data Scientist, respectively, at Hotel Tonight. PrimaTable will also bring along its main developer. PrimaTable had done a limited beta of its software earlier this year and was looking to possibly raise another round of funding when their investors introduced them to Hotel Tonight chief Sam Shank.
Shank, meanwhile, had been looking to hire people to build out its platform — the system that helps hotels advertise their same-day room vacancies to consumers — when he had a fortuitous meeting with the PrimaTable guys, he said.
“We were really impressed by the caliber of these people, the amount of thinking they’ve done in this topic,” said Shank. “Instead of taking another round, we convinced them to join forces with us at HT and bring it to a much bigger audience.”
Shank would not disclose the price or any financial details of the acquisition. But he did say — without naming names — that Hotel Tonight beat out a large internet company for the acquisition. “Public internet companies were interested in the acquisition as well,” he told me. “To be able to acquire them in a competitive situation was pretty amazing.”
What will this mean for users of Hotel Tonight’s iOS or Android app? Hopefully nothing, Shank says. “From a consumer standpoint, our goal is for you not to notice this because our front-end apps are so simple, and we want to keep that experience effortless. Over time [users] will notice more hotels, better inventory with more relevance.”
Relevancy is a feature Hotel Tonight has been actively trying to improve. A few weeks ago the company released a significant app upgrade that introduced some limited user reviews and personalized recommendations of hotels they might like. As Hotel Tonight has grown from 29 hotels in just San Francisco, New York City and Los Angeles when it launched in 2011 to the current 1,500 hotels in 50 cities in the U.S., Canada and U.K., figuring out how to help customers cut through too many options and clutter is paramount.