A taste of the Triptease site for crowdsourced reviews.
Triptease, OutTrippin, Diveboard ply the new waters of community-powered trips
Target audience: Entrepreneurs, travel companies, social startup managers, digital marketers, advertising agencies, educators, journalists, Web publishers.
One of the most interesting trends in social media in the past few years has been the rise of social travel sites and apps. The newest of this new breed is on display at TechCrunch Disrupt, ending today in San Francisco.
I’ve attended every TechCrunch conference from the beginning, and rather than write about the entire event, I tend to focus on a handful of startups that catch my eye.
Today, it’s social travel sites taking part in the Startup Battlefield. Tomorrow, it’s photos of tech titans, startup entrepreneurs, industry thought leaders, angel investors and attendees.
Triptease: Visually rich, people-powered travel reviews
I first met Triptease founder Charlie Osmond at last spring’s Launch Festival and immediately felt lured in the aesthetics of his startup and new site, which has a high-gloss magazine feel to it. You can almost smell the perfume.
“Travel reviews are broken,” with little innovation happening in online review sites over the past 12 years, says Charlie, a former UK Young Entrepreneur of the Year. “Our reviewers cover the best of travel — not just the five-star hotels but quirky trips and fun things to do along with the higher-end travel destinations.”
At the very beginning, the focus was on short reviews of amazing hotel stays, and that still seems the clearest path to profitability. In recent months the scope has felt a bit broader, with a look at the Surajkund Crafts Mela near Delhi, India, the Mount Panorama Bathurst Motor Racing Circuit in Australia and other adventurous, sometimes exotic locales. The reviews are short and to the point — sometimes only a paragraph of text accompanying the eye candy roll of images, provided by the reviewer, the hotel or another source.
Community is at the heart of Triptease. About 100,000 users visit the site (or visit via the tablet app) each month, and people have contributed 10,000 reviews, all for free and all through word of mouth. The point, as in much of social media, is to showcase one’s expertise and good taste (if you want to sock it to a fleabag hotel you stayed at, look elsewhere). And besides, Charlie points out, “if you pay someone to write, you’ll get biased entries.”
Triptease will make money chiefly through partnerships and affiliate fees from hotels, and hotels have begun promoting Triptease to their guests. The community is growing at a robust clip. And now I need to decide which of the venues I visit deserve a writeup in Triptease.
OutTrippin: Pick a travel expert, not a guidebook
I like the premise behind community-powered OutTrippin: Enter where, when and what sort of trip you have in mind. Let OutTrippin go to work, with top-tier bloggers and travel writers pitching you suggestions based on the info you entered and based on their own experiences and knowledge. Then choose your favorite trip and receive a detailed itinerary with hotel and tour recommendations, insider tips, “local hacks” & ideas that only a fellow traveler would know.
There are probably a dozen startups focused on tapping into locals’ knowledge, but OutTrippin is focused on experienced travelers’ knowledge, and it seems to do it well, at least on a small scale.
The expert gets a piece of the action, and the startup gets a piece. Still, at this point, it amounts to just a micro-payment. (I didn’t want to test it out because I don’t have any upcoming trips and don’t want contributors spinning their wheels. But I will in a few months.)
CEO/Founder Kunal Kalro and his team have big ambitions for the brand, with a nascent series of brands — OutTrippin Honeymoons, OutTrippin World Cup 2014, OutTrippin Family Travel and OutTrippin Experiences — already live.
The challenge, of course, is to get to scale by creating a thriving marketplace. Are there really enough bloggers and underemployed travel writers out there to power a service like OutTrippin? Maybe, if great brands like Lonely Planet continue to shed employees and slide toward marginalization.
Locish: Travel like you live there
Perhaps the holy grail of location-based travel apps is the ability to get personal, real-time, location-based recommendations from local experts. A raft of startups — including America’s Gogobot, TouristEye and AFAR, Australia’s BagsUp, Estonia’s Like a Local Guide and others I wrote about recently — is taking dead aim at the market opportunity.
Count Athens-based Locish as a contender, too.
Here’s how it works. Download the app. Register and answer a few quick questions about your taste and preferences. Ask for a recommendation about what to do in a particular city or location. Your question gets sent out to a network of participating online locals “who have a similar lifestyle and taste.” Check out the recommendations, select the one that looks best and get a set of recommendations, including venue, location, contact information and photos.
Tripsidea: Pack in more enjoyment during your next trip
Tripsidea offers a simple proposition: How can you be more productive with your fun during your vacations?
They don’t quite phrase it like that, but co-founder Sunil Ayyappan showed me how the site maximizes your free time. Screen one showed a series of random activities that a traveler or family might spend a typical week in the city. But answering a few questions about preferred attractions, things to do, places to eat and things to see, press a button, and behold! Tripsidea will reorder your itinerary so that it makes much more sense, with activities grouped in continguous areas. It then lets you review your itinerary and print out an itinerary of all your destinations, making for a more memorable trip.
As the site suggests, “Focus on enjoying your vacation and let us do the planning for you.”
Sounds good to me. Why not squeeze more fun out of your next trip?
Diveboard: The social network for scuba divers
I love passionate communities that bond over common interests. And while I’m not a scuba diver (I snorkel, though), I’m impressed with the social community that Diveboard has pulled together.
Open since April 2011, Diveboard lets scuba divers track and share their scuba diving experiences by providing them with a multimedia online logbook — chiefly a pretty series of photo albums. You can fetch dive profiles through a plug-in. Through partnerships with non-governmental organizations and universities, Diveboard helps scuba divers get involved in monitoring the undersea world and provide valuable data to scientists.
But the real value to scuba diving enthusiasts comes from its extensive database of diving spots, helping divers spot alluring species and enabling them to plan for their next dive. The service is free and will be supported through affiliation fees, mostly from dive shop operators.
Flights With Friends: Collaborating with friends on trip choices
Oakland, Calif.-based Flight with Friends helps you find and book flights — with a little help from your friends. If you’re traveling with a group of co-workers, family members or friends, agreeing on optimal choices becomes an ordeal when you’re not in the same room, says founder Kyle Killion.
It works like this: Select the friends or colleagues you’ll be traveling with, then select where you are going and when. The site — no smartphone app yet — searches more than 150 sites for airfare and hotel information, pointing to the lowest prices. Once your group comes to a consensus through the site, booking is just a click away. Selecting seats together looks like a fun task because you can see where everyone wants to sit and you can book together.
Spotsetter: An online social search portal
San Francisco-based Spotsetter lets you get personalized recommendations on the best places to go, ranging from weekend brunches to spots for your evening jog to special restaurants. A social search engine for Apple’s iOS devices, Spotsetter mines the big data of your social networks to obtain relevant recommendations based on the content that your friends have created on popular social networks. Definitely worth a look.
- Location-based services are coming of age (and it’s way more than Foursquare) (Socialmedia.biz)
- TechCrunch Disrupt: 3 Startups That Aim to Make Your Life Easier (dailyfinance.com)
- Today’s 5 standout fighters on the Disrupt startup battlefield (VentureBeat)
- Up-close photos of TechCrunch Disrupt 2012 (Socialmedia.biz)
- 5 standout start-ups that rocked TechCrunch Disrupt 2010 (Socialmedia.biz)