Skyscanner buys door-to-door travel search startup Zoombu

Fledgling door-to-door metasearch company Zoombu has sold to Skyscanner in an disclosed cash and shares deal.

The acquisition will see Zoombu founders Rachel Armitage and Alistair Hann move to the Edinburgh-based Skyscanner for what are being called senior technical and marketing roles within the company. Another member of the Zoombu team is also expected to move to Scotland.

As well as the well-respected Armitage and Hann, perhaps even more importantly Skyscanner gets its hands on technology which will allow it to become a fully functioning, multi-modal travel search engine, covering rail, bus and city transportation to combine with its existing flights product.

Zoombu was created in 2008 but was limited to a private beta test for much of its early, opening up with a micro version targeting European ski destinations in January 2010 and the full site three months later.

The site’s core proposition is that a user can enter a postcode within the “From” and “To” fields for a search query and obtain results, door-to-door, covering every mode of transport.

It also lists results based on the cheapest, quickest and greenest options – the latter becoming an important comparison when it comes to adding rail into metasearch engines.

Skyscanner CEO Gareth Williams says the rail element of the Zoombu technology will be integrated into the main Skyscanner site over the course of the next few months, with buses and city transportation expected some time in the future.

“The goal is take the best bits of what Zoombu is doing, add more caching to make it faster and then integrate with Skyscanner over time,” Williams adds.

The acquisition appears to have come at a critical point for both companies – Skyscanner wanting to expand into multi-modal search and Zoombu reaching a moment where the product and technology “was extremely good” but needed help to grow.

Williams says the existing Zoombu consumer-facing site will not see any further development, except perhaps as a test area for new functionality in the future.

Zoombu, which had attracted a six-figure round of investment from the Said Business School in Oxford in late-2009, started to bring in some revenue but had not reached profitability, Williams confirms.

Skyscanner could have eventually worked on its own door-to-door search technology, Williams believes, but the acquisition meant Armitage and Hann could join the team and developers could continue to work on the existing flight search functionality (“lots of work to do on flights, but we can’t wait forever to do rail”).

Armitage says: “They [Skyscanner] are a company we’ve always been impressed with and it’s an exciting next step for multimodal search and a great home for the tech we’ve built.”

Meanwhile, Williams says the company has been watching developments closely across the Atlantic Ocean in recent months, especially with Kayak laying down plans to list on the public markets.

The earliest Skyscanner would consider following suit would be 2013, he explains.

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Kevin May

About the Writer :: Kevin May

Kevin May was a co-founder and member of the editorial team from September 2009 to June 2017.



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  5. Jim Kovarik

    Congrats to the Zoombu team! I’m not all surprised by this as I think we share a common vision for how travel search may evolve. If Google’s interest in ITA wasn’t sufficient indication, this certainly adds some weight to the argument that’s there’s plenty of room for improvement and innovation in the travel search experience.

    At the risk of plugging my own business…we take a similar ‘multi-modal’ approach on Cost2Drive (though we refer to it as ‘inverting the booking widget’). We lead with car instead of air, and then layer flight info in through a lightweight integration with Kayak. Hotel and other travel services easily follow. Similar to Zoombu you can search by zip, city or full address.

    However we focused our marketing hook around cost, with the bet that gas prices would continue to rise and factor into travel decisions. So far this bet seems to be paying off as gas prices are again on the rise (as is our site traffic)

  6. Alex Bainbridge

    Congrats to Rachel and Alastair. Very impressive tech you built there knowing your non travel tech backgrounds. I look forward to seeing your next round of ideas and implementations now you have some great backing. Hope you like haggis.

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