Led by Ex-Microsofties, Raveable Makes Sense of User Reviews, Gives Hotel Ratings at a Glance
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of explosions of information getting organized by innovations that come along, like personal computers, search engines, and now semantic analysis of user-generated content. He also notes that Raveable’s analysis works well because the text it’s looking at is very specific to hotel experiences.
As for its revenue model, Raveable forms partnerships with large online travel agents, and receives a percentage cut of transactions when customers book a room through its partners. It’s still early, but word of mouth has been strong, Vaughn says. The company has been self-funded to this point, and will probably be hitting the fundraising trail in the coming months. “We wanted to wait to get things right before looking to raise money,” Vaughn says. “We’ll start soon.”
Raveable competes with other travel review aggregators like Kayak and Uptake, but Vaughn says his site generally compiles a larger number of reviews per hotel and, uniquely, performs semantic analysis on them. But if Raveable’s analysis technology works so well, couldn’t it be applied to other sites besides hotel reviews? “There’s a lot of hotels and destinations. There’s pent-up pain there,” Vaughn replies. “I’d rather be great at one thing than marginal at a whole bunch of things. The technology is such that we could expand to other verticals, and we may. But it’s a hard problem, and there are still things we could do.”
If there’s a local role model for Raveable, it’s probably Urbanspoon, the popular Seattle-based restaurant review site (and iPhone app) that was bought by IAC in April. “They proved that, even though the Internet is really competitive, if you build something useful, people will really use it and spread word about it,” Vaughn says.
And more specifically, he adds, “They gave bloggers prominent listings on their pages”—a feature similar to a new program Raveable is rolling out tomorrow. When travel bloggers add a small badge to the end of a blog post, Raveable will automatically generate a link to the post and feature the title and first few sentences (with a link back to the blog). “Ethan [Lowry] and the team at Urbanspoon did a great job of promoting foodie bloggers in a way that also benefits their users,” Vaughn says. “We also wanted to create a win-win for both our users and bloggers.”
Now, it’s about getting more of these features up and running, like promoting prominent travel bloggers on the site, and letting customers search for specific things like pet-friendly inns or hotels with a jacuzzi in the room. Raveable is up to 20,000-plus unique visitors per month, and is in the process of signing up partners. For now, the company is still the two founders plus some offshore development help, but Vaughn has his sights on major growth. “We want to go big, big, big,” he says.
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