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The TripAdvisor CFO says the company has no intent of becoming an online travel agency. But, now that TripAdvisor has introduced Kayak-like hotel metasearch, the question looms whether TripAdvisor will make a large acquisition or two instead of sticking with its traditional penchant for travel startup bargain-hunting.
TripAdvisor acquired five travel startups in the first half of the year, and CFO Julie Bradley, commenting on the company’s curious strategy of buying lots of small startups, says there no end in sight.
“I think we will continue to be acquisitive,” Bradley said yesterday in remarks to the UBS Best of Americas Conference in London.
In 2013, TripAdvisor acquired TinyPost (photo app), Jetsetter (flash sales), CruiseWise (cruise booking), Niumba (vacation rentals in Spain), and GateGuru (airport information app).
Each of these “small acquisitions” were different,” Bradley says, and in sum they “accelerate us to market.”
Bradley provided insights into the acquisitions of Jetsetter, Niumba, TinyPost and CruiseWise.
“Jetsetter had a better brand,” Bradley said, comparing it to TripAdvisor’s home-baked SniqueAway, both of which focused on hotel flash sales. “They had a tighter relationship with supply.”
Because of Jetsetter’s better hotel relationships and brand recognition, TripAdvisor integrated the two and shut down SniqueAway a few months after acquiring Jetsetter.
TripAdvisor’s acquisition of Spanish vacation rental site Niumba also revolved around supply, in this case Spanish vacation rentals to be paired with TripAdvisor’s Flipkey, as well as acquiring talent, and seeing a financial opportunity.
Bradley said Niumba had a lot of Spanish vacation rentals “that our travelers want,” a “good team,” and Niumba wasn’t monetizing that supply to the extent that TripAdvisor thinks it can.
So TripAdvisor saw an opportunity, consolidated the supply, and will “use our monetization techniques,” Bradley said.
With TinyPost, TripAdvisor acquired “a great postcard app and a very talented team,” Bradley said.
Since acquiring TinyPost, TripAdvisor has introduced a Make a Postcard feature in its mobile apps.
Bradley referred to CruiseWise as an “acquihire,” enabling TripAdvisor to bring on board “top engineers” and product people with knowledge of the cruise industry, as well as secure some new technology.
This CruiseWise talent and technology will go well with TripAdvisor’s CruiseCritic, acquired in 2007.
Bradley didn’t mention GateGuru, acquired in June, but the mobile app that provides airport and gate information is a natural fit with TripAdvisor’s SeatGuru and provides more mobile talent.
Tallking about TripAdvisor’s acquisitions in a general way, Bradley said they are all different, and many over the past several years involved “people hires,” including landing mobile engineers that accelerate TripAdvisor’s plans in mobile.
TripAdvisor plans to keep on investing heavily in mobile and social, Bradley said.
Bradley said about 25% to 30% of TripAdvisor’s employees are engineers, and then there are product and brand teams, along with sales representatives, many of which do telesales for its Business Listings subscription effort.
TripAdvisor is growing organically, but these relatively small acquisitions accelerate these growth spurts, Bradley said.
TripAdvisor will continue to look to make acquisitions, Bradley said.
With its global operations and a big bankroll, employees of several travel startups can expect to be picking up TripAdvisor paychecks in the near future.