Jason Clampet
Rafat Ali

PaidContent Founder Rafat Ali Launches Travel News Site Skift

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Rafat Ali, founder of paidContent, sold his company to The Guardian for roughly $12.5 million in 2008. Then he spent two years traveling the world, in a “quest for isolation after eight clamorous years.” Now, he has built “the homepage for the travel industry” to inform your travels.

Ali and co-founder Jason Clampet, who ran Frommers.com’s original content efforts, aim to disrupt the enormous travel industry with a site that offers a combination of original media content and data tools to users, especially business travelers.

As they explain on the Skift site, “Skift.com is our worldview on how broadly we look at travel, and it informs how we’re building the company…Whether it’s through news, insight, data, and services, we aim to be the pervasive brand when it comes to travel information.”

Calling it a “new breed of media company,” Ali compares the site to Politico, explaining that it is “designed to appeal to insiders as well as a large consumer base.” The site’s content will be a mix of pure aggregation, curation, licensed and original reporting.

“We have lot of competitors in bits and pieces, in various sub-sectors of travel, but no one who’s bring it all together, no one who’s using data strategically to scale, and certainly no one who’s building a larger consumer brand out of it the way we plan to,” Ali tells us.

Accompanying the site’s multi-targeted audience is a multi-pronged business model, as they aim to combine advertising, freemium and premium subscription models depending on the type of user.

“Maybe the travel industry won’t be ready for the kind of cut-across-the-silos brand that we’re trying to build,” Ali says, discussing the challenges he and Clampet face. “We’re also trying to tackle the consumer side, aimed at business travelers, which is risky to do along with the B2B side, and few media companies have tried that. We think we know all the right questions to ask as we grow, [but] we don’t have all the answers yet.”

They have raised a “mid-six figures” angel round from a number of high-profile investors, including Chris AhearnLuke BeattyGordon CrovitzCraig FormanJim FriedlichTom GlocerVishal GondalJason HirschhornPeter HoranAlan Meckler,Mohamed NanabhaySanjay ParthasarathyAmol SarvaChris Schroeder, and three additional investors, whose names were not disclosed.

The founders say they are currently building a team of editorial staff, developers and data and product heads. Ali says they are building a data warehouse of publicly available travel industry information first, then building services on top of that; they are working on developing the consumer side over the coming year.

(Updated with quotes from Ali)