Gogobot, a social travel site that launched less than a year ago, is on a tear. The company has racked up accolades including being named one of Time’s top sites of 2011 and winner of the 2010 Crunchie award for Best Design. They’re seeing very strong growth. And today, they’re announcing that they’ve raised a very large Series B funding round of $15 million. The round is being led by Redpoint Ventures, with Battery Ventures and CrunchFund participating. Redpoint General Partner Satish Dharmaraj will be joining Gogobot’s board. This brings Gogobot’s total funding to $19 million, after a $4 million Series A in June 2010.
Given how young Gogobot is there’s a chance you haven’t stumbled across it before. But there’s also a solid chance that some of your friends have: Gogobot founder and CEO Travis Katz says that the site is now the biggest social travel service on the web, and that its userbase has grown 10x in the last six months. Two weeks ago the company launched a mobile app, which is now a top-10 travel app in 31 countries on the App Store. And it’s the biggest travel-related app on Facebook. The company isn’t sharing any specific user stats yet, but it sounds like things are going very well.
Gogobot’s pitch is one that seems obvious: it’s combining social with the immensely lucrative travel market, allowing you to connect with your friends to get their advice on where to visit, what to eat, and where to stay. You can use the service to plan things ahead of time, or you can poll your friends on the fly. Thing is, this is an idea that I’ve seen many times over the years — and the majority of Gogobot’s competitors haven’t managed to get nearly the same traction. So why are they taking off?
The key to Gogobot’s success, according to Katz, is largely one of experience. Gogobot includes many of the social mechanics you’ll see on other sites: viral loops, badges, rewards for engaging with friends, and so on. Katz says that building a social site is something that sounds easy, but in practice, getting all of these things right is much harder than most people think. But Gogobot’s team knows what they’re doing. Katz was an early employee at MySpace, as are several other key Gogobot employees. And Katz’s cofounder, Ori Zaltzman, built Yahoo Answers. In other words, they’ve had a lot of experience with helping services go viral.
Another key factor in the site’s growth is its attention to design, which looks significantly more modern and user-friendly than incumbent travel sites like TripAdvisor. TripAdvisor, by the way, is the biggest player in this space (it’s headed toward an IPO), but Katz says Gogobot has a few advantages over it. For one, he points out that most TripAdvistor reviews are left by strangers, so you don’t have much context as to the reviewer’s personality or tastes. And he says there’s “a ton of fraud” on the site from employees at various restaurants and hotels. With Gogobot you’re being presented from your friends first-and-foremost, who don’t have any incentive to leave misleading reviews.