TripIt’s Short Trip to a $120M Exit: A Travelogue from CEO Gregg Brockway
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whether you have a travel agent or not, the travel profile that you create with us will make your travel experience better.
If Hyatt or Hilton could know that you are a frequent-stay person, and that you like fruit instead of chocolates and king beds instead of doubles, that could all be in your profile, and rather than having to share that every time you interact with a supplier, they could simply tap into that profile. We think about our service as an open platform. We help travelers pull their information into one place, but we also make it very easy for third parties to access that data through our API [application programming interface]. The traveler controls the data—we are not sharing it without their permission. But there are over 700 companies and developers building services that interact with TripIt, and that’s a big part of what we think makes TripIt unique.
X: It’s interesting to hear you talk about an open platform, because travel is an area where it seems that there’s still a lot of competition over proprietary data. Just look at the way travel companies are lining up to oppose Google’s proposed acquisition of ITA, which aggregates airline fare data. It seems like you’ve found a way around all that, by getting consumers to share their travel data with you directly.
GB: That is the huge challenge—it’s an enormous industry that for a variety of historical reasons is structurally very fragmented. Everyone hoards their data. So figuring out how to pull that together on travelers’ behalf has been a challenge. But that’s why we got excited initially, when we realized that all the data travelers carry flows through their e-mail inbox at one point or another. So if we could figure out how to tap into that, we could eliminate the need to negotiate commercial deals with everyone who owns the data.
The value of bringing the data together was obvious to everyone. The question was how do you do that in startup time and get something up and running. To prime the pump, we focused on e-mail as a way of sharing data between services. Now we are building out more and more live connections with all sorts of different services.
But yeah, there’s ‘what can the technology do?’ and there’s ‘What makes business sense for an industry?’ and those two are often at odds. As you note, we’re seeing a really interesting example of that with the airlines having a big fight with the GDS’s [global distribution systems—i.e., computerized reservation systems] over who has the right to their data, and who has the right to price the data, and who gets to interface with the customer. That’s a whole other conversation, but ownership of data has the ability to dramatically reinvent or reshape industries.
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