Skift Take

Travel startups that started salivating over the prospects of Priceline and American Airlines getting into the funding game are likely disappointed, for now, at least.

There has been a lot of hype of late about funds for travel startups, but not all funds are created equal.

Priceline CEO Jeffery Boyd tells Skift that the company’s startup fund, which came to light in late 2012 and was to be bankrolled from internal cash, hasn’t funded any companies yet.

With all of the activities under way at Priceline, including buying and integrating Kayak, as well as a CEO transition, it sounds as though Priceline hasn’t focused on the startup fund as of yet.

The idea behind the fund was to invest at early stages in growth companies that are working in areas of interest to the Priceline Group.

There are five other travel-related funds that are more active:

Altimeter Capital

In the Summer, travel investor and Room 77 founder Brad Gerstner announced that his public market hedge fund, Altimeter Capital, closed on a separate $75 million private fund that would focus on Internet, software, technology and travel-related investments.

The private fund’s only investment in its first few months has been outside the travel industry as it participated in a $150 million round to fund MongoDB, a noSQL database company.

Gerstner says the $75 million private fund “is not travel exclusive or even travel first.”

Meanwhile, Altimeter Capital has made nearly $1 billion in usually later-stage investments. For example Altimeter Capital invested in secondary shares in Kayak before its July 20, 2012, IPO, and has helped fund Hubspot, Duetto Software, and many others.

American Airlines Startup ‘Fund’ 

Early this year a then-executive at American Airlines, who subsequently left for Delta, announced that American had launched a startup fund, but upon further investigation it turned out that American wasn’t investing actual dollars, but was providing promotional support, partnerships and discounted airline tickets.

For example, New York-based VerbalizeIt, which provides human translator services, got marketing support on, an article in American Way magazine and online, and the lure of additional partnerships.

Concur Perfect Trip Fund 

Among public companies, the most active investor in travel startups has been travel and expense solutions-provider Concur, with its $150 million Perfect Trip Fund.

“Concur’s vision of The Perfect Trip is built on creating a travel ecosystem that dynamically responds to the needs of business travelers, the companies that they work for and the suppliers that serve them,” the company stated in the fund’s November 2012 kickoff announcement.

Concur has invested in Taxi Magic, Evature, Nor1, Room 77, Yapta, Cleartrip, Buuteeq, DailyDollar, StayNTouch, TripLingo, Mynd Calendar, Visage, and Trover.

Thayer Ventures

Thayer Ventures is the only travel-industry focused traditional venture fund, focused on hospitality and travel tech, and has been very active since being launched in 2009 (as Quest Hospitality Ventures and then teamed with Thayer Lodging last year). Its investment portfolio includes Liftopia, Traxo, tripBam, TourWrist, Switchfly, Nor1, newBrandAnalytics, ID90T, Hotelme, Hipmunk, Duetto Research, bCode, and Adara Media.

Thayer Ventures argues that it brings more to the table than funding: “With each investment, we partner with other investment firms, and add value through our deep sector knowledge and relationships throughout the hospitality and travel industry.”

eLong’s $100 Million Innovation Fund

In August, Expedia Inc.’s eLong unit in China revealed it has created a $100 million kitty to fund mobile tech projects and startups, both internally and externally.

eLong is in the midst of a huge push of its hotel offerings on mobile, and in the online travel agency’s third quarter earnings call on November 14, CEO Guangfu Cui said part of its strategy is “to promote mobile products and service through our innovation fund.”

The company didn’t immediately respond for comment on any startups that it has funded to date.


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Tags: american airlines, concur, elong, priceline

Photo credit: Yapta is backed by Concur's Perfect Trip Fund. PlaceIt by Breezi

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