Expedia alums at NewTravelco acquire TravelPost from Kayak

Want to know what the ex-Expedia quartet at NewTravelco is up to?

NewTravelco has gone out and acquired Kayak’s TravelPost, and Kayak becomes an investor in NewTravelco.

After approaching Kayak with rumblings about the deal, Kayak CEO Steve Hafner confirmed the transaction.

And, Simon Breakwell, one of the founders of TravelNewco, confirmed the acquisition, too, but declined further comment, other than to say, “We’re not ready to discuss our plans.”


“Yes, we did sell Travelpost to NewTravelco,” Hafner says.  “We love their management team and continue to be a shareholder in the new entity.”

He didn’t provide any terms of the deal.

“I can’t say much,” Hafner says. “They have a bold vision and we’re delighted to be shareholders.”

The acquisition gives fuel to speculation that NewTravelco hopes to do combat with hotel-review website TripAdvisor, perhaps as a mobile-led play in the media/advertising business.

Travel metasearch website Kayak became the owner of TravelPost, a user-generated hotel review website, when Kayak bought SideStep in late 2007.  SideStep had acquired TravelPost a  year earlier.

So far, no competitor has emerged to challenge TripAdvisor in terms of scale, and perhaps NewTravelco — with its team of Greg Syngstad, Simon Breakwell, Sunil Shah and Rich Barton — dream to do so.

And, now they have Kayak as an investor and ally.

If you are making a list of companies that scratch the surface of TripAdvisor’s dominance in the review space, then TravelPost with its almost 2.5 million hotel reviews, hotel photos and travel blogs, would have to be near the top of the charts.

NewTravelco raised almost $9.8 million in financing earlier this month from 25 investors.

It turns out that General Catalyst Partners, an investor in Kayak and ITA Software, as well as Kayak are part of the investment mix.

Incidentally, Slyngstad, president of NewTravelco and co-founder of VacationSpot.com, is on Kayak’s board of directors.

Google Maps, which has added hotel search and pricing, may be a threat to TripAdvisor, and in the long-term, NewTravelco hopes to be among the players, as well.

So, lots of questions remain:

  • Will Kayak license TravelPost content in light of the acquisition?
  • How will NewTravelco leverage Kayak?
  • Does NewTravelco have any other acquisitions in the works, and any other strategic investors?
  • What does all this mean for Kayak and online travel?
  • Will NewTravelco use Kayak for search?
  • If the goal is to take on TripAdvisor, why wouldn’t Kayak wage the fight on its own? Does Kayak, which is mulling an IPO, already have too much on its plate?

There are lots of questions about the TravelPost acquisition in the early, early days of NewTravelco.

Perhaps some of the questions are premature.

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Dennis Schaal

About the Writer :: Dennis Schaal

Dennis Schaal was North American editor for Tnooz.



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  7. Dennis Schaal

    Ophir: I doubt being a data feed for Google Maps is the end-all and be-all of NewTravelco’s ambitions.

  8. Dennis Schaal

    Daniele: Speaking of stealth, what you are talking about would really be the definition of stealth. It’s a little murky for me, however, but I like your creative thinking. And, yes, Simon’s handling the Thomas Cook project while starting this new business — that indeed seems to add a bit of complexity.

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  13. jonathan alford

    Ophir, I like your thoughts. Given their connection to Rob Torres mentioned above, I’d imagine there’s a chance 🙂

  14. Ophir

    Considering Google’s interest in hotels for the mapping application and their expected insatiable hunger for data (reviews and rates), could it be NTC sees an opportunity of becoming the data supplier for Google Maps as it relates to hotels, using TravelPost for reviews and Kayak for rates?

    What this does to TripAdvisor, Oyster, etc. will remain to be seen.

  15. Daniele Beccari

    @Dennis: of course we are all speculating ahead. But I find it intriguing that Simon is mandated by TCook to launch their online business by 2012 while at the same time setting up a new travel company that – given these premises – is not planning to be just another little site.

    Now speculating on what this could be about: I’ve been waiting for some time to see a new kind of online travel company that does not exist with a site of its own, but only embedded into social networks or smartphones – where people actually are (physically or virtually). Simple media model hence no travel agency merchant liabilities nor service staff needed. Let’s see if this is going there.

  16. jonathan alford

    Btw, the NTC guys worked with Rob Torres of Google Travel at Expedia too.

    Having fun here on a friday night after the kids are in bed, perhaps a mobile platform integrating pre-trip search with behaviorally-targeted travelpost and Youtube content, location-based search, discovery and social connection similar to a FourSq / Whrrl, and hotel direct connects may not be too far-fetched.

    Consider airline WiFi access, and you’ve got a mobile travel search, discovery, social experience and referral/booking application covering the entire pre-trip, en-route, and in-destination spectrum.

    Pretty wild and maybe actually fun for consumers! Of course a major challenge to keep simple from a UI and brand perspective.

  17. Dennis Schaal

    Douglas: Thanks …. just saw your report about cruise reviews. http://ping.fm/SIeJt You got some solid news in that one!

  18. Douglas Quinby

    Great scoop Dennis. Tnooz reporting on NewTravelco has been inspired since the outset… the TMZ of travel tech!

  19. jonathan alford

    Henry, perhaps they saw mobile coming super-fast and saw it as an opp to get out in front of the OTA’s by investing in that instead of spending to catch up in the review space.

    How many mobile app downloads have they had now? Those are people may be unlikely to ever use Expedia’s mobile search/booking tools.

    What do you guys think?

  20. Dennis Schaal

    Dennis Schaal

    Henry: As we both know, that hasn’t happened, and actually TravelPost appears to be languishing a bit.

    The question now is: What kind of asset did NewTravelco get in TravelPost?

    A hotel review site that hasn’t lived up to its potential….?

    Or the framework for something new?

  21. Henry Harteveldt

    I find this interetsing given Steve Haffner’s huffing and puffing about how he’d make TravelPost better than TripAdvisor.

    • Kevin May

      Kevin May

      @henry – well, err, maybe this was part of his masterplan all along. 🙂

  22. Dennis Schaal

    Dennis Schaal

    Ram: Aren’t there a few smart people at TripAdvisor, too? Does NewTravelco have the franchise on smarts?:)

    Just asking….

    But, the time certainly is ripe for a little more dispuption in the disruptive online travel world we already live in.

  23. ram

    Well i remember Philip speaking at the town hall in the beginning of the year saying that he was willing to bet that new player will emerge to solve a big problem in the discovery phase of travel. We do have a smart team here..at the end smart people figure out the problem. Mobile+Media – interesting thought..

    • Kevin May

      Kevin May

      @ram – for fear of also securing some bragging rights here, at the end of Orlando PCW I said in a roundup that I thought a new player would emerge that would have mobile at its core, rather than a web-based service that happens to have a mobile app or mobile-version of a website.

      interesting times.

  24. Dennis Schaal

    Dennis Schaal

    Jonathan: I like the direction you are going in with the speculation.

    A couple of things jumped out at me, though. I doubt hotels would love NewTravelco as a new booking channel, given hotels’ favoring their own direct channels. Although a little competition for the OTAs would come in handy.

    The second point is, why would the former Expedia guys don their start-up aprons only to give Kayak the option to buy the whole thing?

    Well, I guess if the price is right, but……..

    • Jonathan Alford

      good questions and interesting debate points…so feel free to poke holes…

      I’ve heard from other folks that hotels are very receptive to new distribution channels – anyone other than Expedia, etc, and as usual Expedia didn’t help itself with its Choice Hotels positioning that to me demonstrated more of a vulnerable defensive posture.

      Generally though…1) hotels are sucking wind on RevPAR due to general economy and excess capacity from irrational overbuilding and 2)I guess like anything – hotels can drive a lot of people to their own direct channels, but there are just going to be a lot of people that want to do something different.

      As for the start-up aprons and Kayak options – I know nothing here, but it seems normal investment / M&A strategy – Kayak and NewTravelCo both spread risk but create a foundation to bloom. Then whether it’s a set buy option, right-of-first refusal, or just a handshake “we’ll see what happens” kind of deal, who knows?

      But ultimately, you nailed it – if the price is right!

  25. Jonathan Alford

    Good article Dennis. No questions are premature! 🙂

    Maybe I can take a speculative stab at a few?

    Kayak gets to keep its brand focused on its core online and mobile meta-search business, just like Expedia acquired Hotwire and Hotels.com and kept the brands separate.

    It gets to help seed a venture with guys who are experts in booking business and technology and are probably salivating at the vulnerabilities of TripAdvisor and Expedia in the mobile space even though they helped create them.

    Those guys have proven themselves and get to have fun creating a new experience for travelers leveraging the hype, growth and potential of mobile technology, location-based marketing, social-mapped trustworthy reviews, and engagement capabilities of svcs like FourSquare.

    Then perhaps they can connect directly into hotel booking channels and grab those margins too. Hotel companies might love it and it’s a pretty awesome time to offer new distribution channels.

    Then Kayak gets the option to acquire the whole thing but keep the brands separate (whatever the brand is) and render Expedia as irrelevant to consumers as possible.

    There may be some patterns here…but again, I’m speculating as well..what do folks think?

  26. Dennis Schaal

    Dennis Schaal

    Mark: I’m sure Kayak benefits from both the SideStep and TravelPost piece of the 2007 acquisition……

    NewTravelco doesn’t have the funds yet to have enabled Kayak to make good on a fraction of the SideStep $196 million by selling TravelPost.

    We’ll have to see what details emerge about the ongoing relationship between NewTravelCo and Kayak, now that Kayak is an investor in NewTravelco.

  27. Dennis Schaal

    Dennis Schaal

    Danielle: Why do you mention Thomas Cook? Because of Breakwell’s recent work for Thomas Cook?

    I think we are getting way ahead of yourselves.

    NewTravelco is in the midst of first hiring a bare-bones staff. Not sure they are selling themselves to Thomas Cook just yet.

  28. mark bell

    Guess, Kayak can claw back some of the 190 million they spent on Sidestep by selling Travelpost. Looks like Travelpost ended up being worth more than SideStep in the end.

  29. uberVU - social comments

    Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by socialmapping: Expedia alums at NewTravelco acquire TravelPost from Kayak http://ff.im/-iaAGH

  30. Daniele Beccari

    And the other question is: is this part of a nice package that they are then going to sell to ThomasCook?


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