Skift Take

Skift has covered hundreds of travel startups during the past four years to help readers understand emerging technology trends and venture capitalist interest. Here are examples of companies that have gone silent and those that have found an audience.

Each week for the past four years Skift has been chronicling the latest travel startups to enter the market.

When we began our weekly Skiftseedlings stories on startups in December 2012 the backdrop to the travel startup landscape was different than today. In 2012, most of the world’s major economies were growing and recovering from the global recession of 2007 to 2009. In particular, the rise of mobile led to a flurry of entrepreneurs launching companies that wanted to help travelers plan their trips through mobile apps.

Four years later, while Airbnb and Uber are grabbing headlines, funding in certain sectors such as hospitality tech has been uneven. Most of the scores of trip-planning startups launched during the past few years have died, according to our analysis of travel startups, because they either ran out of funding or shut down due to lack of user engagement. Skift also found that trip-planning was one of the least funded travel startup categories in 2015.

Trip-planning startups had the daunting task of facing off against incumbents including TripAdvisor, Google, and Yelp, which claim hundreds of millions of users around the world. Based on our analysis about four out of five trip-planning or travel inspiration startups launched during the past four years have failed.

Startups initially covered in Skiftseedlings ranged from just-launched to about a year old. Skiftseedlings is not necessarily a forecast for which platforms travelers will adopt or what software hotels will buy, for example. Rather, its purpose is to highlight how entrepreneurs and venture capitalists are responding to challenges and conflicts facing the global travel industry such as hotels’ direct bookings push and how travel agents are innovating to remain relevant. Skift has covered hundreds of startups during the past four years and more than 150 are part of this analysis.

Nearly 60 percent of the 150 startups that are part of this analysis have failed and are no longer in business. We considered a startup inactive, or dead, if its website no longer exists, its social media presence went silent, and/or its product seemed like it was broken beyond repair.

We’ve seen startup trends come and go. Booking last-minute hotel rooms, as embodied in HotelTonight, seemed to be the buzz of the travel industry a couple of years ago but lately everyone’s attention turned even more intently towards Airbnb and the sharing economy, as well as messaging apps and bots.

Founders Reflect on State of Travel Startup Landscape

Skift has talked to many entrepreneurs in the travel industry during the past four years who founded companies that reflect shifts in consumer behavior. Many founders and CEOs define success differently at various stages. We talked to the CEOs of three startups, AllTheRooms, Rocketrip, and Stayful, which have managed to stick around and keep fighting the fight.

Each of these startups, like many others that have enjoyed longevity and recognition, entered a space that was ripe for disruption. Rocketrip, for example, rewards business travelers for beating their travel budgets and was founded at a time when Google was running a similar program for its own employees. AllTheRooms saw the convergence of established hospitality companies with maturing alternative accommodation sites. Stayful recognized hoteliers needed data to personalize the guest experience and stay connected while offering travelers discounted rates for boutique hotels.

Following are thoughts from each of the three CEOs who reflected on what they’ve learned during the past few years and the challenges and accomplishments they’ve had along the way.

Joseph DiTomaso, co-founder and CEO of AllTheRooms, founded in 2013: “About eight months ago we reached about 7.4 million accommodations that are bookable on our site. That’s about half of total global accommodations market.

“Our vision from day one was to go after every room on the planet and we’re one of the only sites with all traditional hotels but also non-traditional as well. We began to see that AllTheRooms was needed in the market when the Priceline Group acquired Kayak in 2013 and then when Expedia bought Orbitz. And of course the gradual surge of the alternative accommodations market. We believe these markets will converge and we’re already seeing that happen, with the irony that Expedia ended up buying HomeAway for $3.9 billion last year.

“One of our challenges is that you’re everything to everyone and nothing to no one. According to our analysis there are over 450 different types of accommodations sites out there. Search parameters for us are very different compared to, say, vacation rental sites. There’s a different booking experience depending on the type of accommodation. I think has probably done the best job at trying to integrate their vacation rental assets.”

Dan Ruch, founder and CEO of Rocketrip, founded in 2013: “We saw the opportunity in the consumer space but nothing like what we’re doing existed in the corporate travel space. The corporate travel industry wasn’t being kept up on its toes.

“There’s just a huge opportunity to innovate and treat employees like consumers. We’re entering a phase of corporate culture where an employer will not tolerate a platform built for them that does not serve their needs.”

Cheryl Rosner, co-founder and CEO of Stayful, founded in 2013: “We didn’t foresee on-demand services becoming big as fast as they did, which is really strange to say in hindsight but that’s the reality of it. We knew in the beginning that instant within the stay was very important, but we didn’t necessarily see the on-demand in the beginning.

“We didn’t initially have a concierge service but we now have one in the new iteration in our app. Our engagement with the concierge service is 42 percent of app users.

“Hotels today are being provided a lot more information. One of the top concerns of boutique hotels and independents is the cost of payroll and a concierge service like Stayful’s provides them with some information to start to think about workflow.

“But use cases are simple to identify and really super hard to execute. Take dinner reservations, for example. We know what we know we’re good at, and what we’re not good at [so] we bring in partners to our network. We view ourselves as a market network. At the center is the user and hotel stay and there are a whole bunch of things that go around that.”

Travel Startup Failures and Survivors

We reviewed startups that were in our Skiftseedlings stories from December 2012 to December 2014 to check their pulses, discover which ones are still alive two to three years after launching, and decipher trends in the travel startup ecosystem.

Trip-planning isn’t the only travel startup category that has been hard hit. Several startup airport apps, booking sites, and hotel software platforms bit the dust as there was a glut of those types of companies chasing the same travelers, brands, and funding.

The surviving startups are perhaps even more telling. Companies like Silvercar for car rentals, LoungeBuddy for airport lounge access and Rocketrip for business travel rewards reached for market opportunities. Others such as JetSmarter for private jet bookings, Xola for tours and activities booking software and Wanderu for bus and train bookings represent niches that were always in demand but never adequately addressed.

These surviving startups shouldn’t be considered success stories, though, since simply surviving for a few years doesn’t necessarily hold promise. The spectrum of survival is broad, with some of these companies actually gaining traction with consumers and major brands while others are surviving off venture capital or barely treading water.

Below are the 150 travel startups Skift covered between 2012 and 2014 that have either died or survived. Five of the 150 startups have been acquired. This list, along with all the startups we’ve covered, isn’t totally comprehensive. These startups do, however, reflect some of the larger trends, for better or worse.

Note that the date Skift wrote about these startups, indicated below, is generally a few months after each company’s official launch date.

150 Startups Covered in Skiftseedlings From December 2012 to December 2014

Startup Covered in Skiftseedlings Type Active Inactive
Trip’inion Dec-12 trip planning inactive
Cityhunch Dec-12 hotel, vr, alt accom booking inactive
VacayGent Dec-12 trip planning inactive
Worksurfers Dec-12 freelance travel writing inactive
Arrive Dec-12 trip planning inactive
Oneairport Dec-12 airport app inactive
Gatherbal Dec-12 trip planning inactive
Minube Dec-12 trip planning active
Siilk Dec-12 trip planning inactive
Trablr Dec-12 booking site inactive
Jetaport (rebranded in 2016 as Skipper) Dec-12 booking site active
CityFootprints Dec-12 trip planning inactive
RockinShare Dec-12 trip planning inactive
Karma Dec-12 Wi-Fi active
Airport Chatter Dec-12 airport app inactive
Tripnnest Dec-12 trip planning inactive
Dcovery Jan-13 trip planning inactive
Splash Jan-13 trip planning inactive
Silvercar Jan-13 car rental active
Wanderio Jan-13 booking site active
Tripcierge Jan-13 trip planning inactive
Bustripping Jan-13 booking site inactive
Coupafly Jan-13 flash sales inactive
Banjary Jan-13 trip planning inactive
Outtrippin Jan-13 trip planning inactive
Busbud Jan-13 booking site active
Roam 7 Jan-13 trip planning inactive
TripThirsty Jan-13 trip planning inactive
Furlocity Jan-13 trip planning inactive
Party Like a Local Feb-13 trip planning active
ForLessGuides Feb-13 trip planning inactive
Wanderu Feb-13 booking site active
Checkin Cashin Feb-13 travel deals site inactive
Great Little Place Feb-13 trip planning inactive
JetZet Feb-13 trip planning inactive
JetFreely Feb-13 trip planning inactive
Every Daydream Holiday Feb-13 trip planning inactive
Apartum Feb-13 vacation rental booking active
WhileWairport Feb-13 airport app inactive
Fitusin Feb-13 gym access for travelers inactive
Oh Hey World Mar-13 trip planning inactive
TripTogether Mar-13 trip planning  active
Rambugo Apr-13 booking site inactive
LikeWhere Aug-13 trip planning active
HotelConfidential Aug-13 hotel reviews inactive
LoungeBuddy Aug-13 airport lounge booking active
WhatsBusy Aug-13 trip planning inactive
Yoogoin*** Aug-13 search engine for concerts inactive
Global Foodie Aug-13 food tourism app inactive
Hospitalitee Aug-13 hotel networking app inactive Aug-13 trip planning inactive
Rocketrip Aug-13 business travel active
SimpleVisa Sep-13 travel visas active
iPost-a-Card Sep-13 postcards inactive
TheSuitest Sep-13 hotel search engine inactive
Locish Sep-13 trip planning inactive
Withlocals Sep-13 trip planning active
Rooming Sep-13 short term rentals inactive
Olset Sep-13 hotel booking site active
Festpop Sep-13 trip planning inactive
Trip Gems Sep-13 trip planning inactive
Grata Sep-13 hotel software inactive
BeMyGuest Oct-13 tours and activities active
NightSwapping Oct-13 short-term rentals active
Bookiwoo Dec-13 hotel software inactive
Tripchi Dec-13 airport guide active
ExpenseBot Jan-14 expense reporting active
Trippeo Jan-14 expense reporting active
Lodgify Jan-14 hotel software active
JetSmarter Feb-14 private jets active
Tourlancer Jul-14 tours and activities inactive
Detour Jul-14 mobile audio tour active
Drivr Aug-14 on-demand rideshare active
Xola Sep-14 tours and activities software active
Reserve Oct-14 mobile restaurant reservations active
TribalTourist Oct-14 tours and activities active
Discoveroom Oct-14 short-term rental booking software active
En Bloc Hotels Oct-14 hotel booking site active
TripOn Oct-14 trip planning inactive
Wayfare Oct-14 trip inspiration inactive
Class Oct-14 mobile hotel concierge inactive
Hua Oct-14 foreign language learning inactive
Weeleo Oct-14 foreign currency exchange inactive
Facebooking Oct-14 hotel booking site inactive
HotelUpgrade Oct-14 hotel upgrades inactive
Essential Mobi Oct-14 mobile Wi-Fi for travelers inactive
Umapped Oct-14 trip planning active
HotelPower Oct-14 hotel deals site active
Humanity.TV^ Oct-14 travel media active
HelloShift Oct-14 hotel employee tech active
Small Map Oct-14 trip planning inactive
Horizon (formally Oh Hey World) Oct-14 short-term rentals active
AirZolo Oct-14 trip planning inactive
Travelog Oct-14 trip planning active
KnowRoaming Nov-14 international calling active Nov-14 trip planning inactive
Let’s Ride Nov-14 trip planning inactive
TripHobo Nov-14 trip planning active
Theor Nov-14 trip planning inactive
Meets Nov-14 trip planning inactive
Vegas Active Travel Guide Nov-14 tours and activities active
Triptive Nov-14 hotel booking site inactive
Fizzer Nov-14 travel postcards active
TripScanner Nov-14 business travel management inactive
HustleBox Nov-14 business travel expenses inactive
XTourmaker Nov-14 travel mobile app design inactive
Book2Meet Nov-14 meeting space booking site active
CorkSharing^^ Nov-14 tours and activities active
Leave Your Luggage Nov-14 luggage transfer active
TripMule Nov-14 trip planning active
Kaligo Nov-14 hotel booking site active
Tickts Nov-14 mobile app for event tickets inactive
Tenderfoot Nov-14 trip planning active
TouchStay Dec-14 vacation rental software active
Openhotelier Dec-14 travel agent booking platform active
Souvenir Dec-14 trip planning inactive
Flyr Dec-14 big data about airfares active
RVShare Dec-14 P2P RV rental platform active
Funliday Dec-14 trip planning  active
TastemakersAfrica Dec-14 packaged tours booking site active
Okanda Dec-14 meeting space booking site active
LookBooker Dec-14 salon appts for business travelers active* Dec-14 offline travel maps active
TravelStarter Dec-14 crowdfunding for tourism projects active
Feastly Dec-14 local meals for travelers active
City CoPilot Dec-14 sharing economy concierge active
Owegoo Dec-14 trip planning inactive
HelloTel Dec-14 trip planning active
Tinggly Dec-14 tours and activities active
Zapla Dec-14 bookings software active
HovelStay Dec-14 short-term rentals inactive
Zoolafix Dec-14 tours and activities active
Paperflies Dec-14 flight booking site active
Blania Dec-14 trip planning inactive
TripSuit Dec-14 trip planning inactive
Campr Dec-14 campsite bookings active
Bundle Dec-14 travel photos active
Oniva Dec-14 trip planning inactive
Tripda Dec-14 ride-sharing inactive
EasyGuests Dec-14 short-term rental management active
Trip Was Dec-14 social media marketing inactive
FlyStay Dec-14 airport app inactive
Trip For Dog Dec-14 trip planning inactive
Trampolinn** Dec-14 short-term rentals inactive
Behomm Dec-14 short-term rentals inactive
Flitways Dec-14 ride-hailing active
Proxce Dec-14 hotel software active
RDV Voyage Dec-14 trip planning active
Muzeums Dec-14 digital museum guides active
TerminalDelay Dec-14 airport app inactive

Source: Skift

* was acquired by Group in 2014.
**Trampolinn was acquired by GuestToGuest in 2016.
***Yoogoin was acquired by indiescapes on Dec. 6, 2013.
^ Humanity.TV was acquired by business IT provider Coupa Software on July 20, 2015.
^^CorkSharing was acquired by Group on Nov. 13, 2014

— Sarah Enelow contributed to this story.

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Tags: skift4, skiftseedlings

Photo credit: Skift is looking back on the travel startups that have failed and survived during its four years of Skiftseedlings coverage. Pictured here is the team of Viajala, a flight and hotel booking startup for Latin America, at its office in Medellin, Colombia. Dan Peltier / Skift

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