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Top10.com

Hotel Metasearch Top10.com Closes $8M Series B, Led By Balderton, To Expand In Europe

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Hotel metasearch startup, Top10.com, has closed an $8 million Series B funding round, led by Balderton Capital, following what it describes as rapid growth over the past 12 months. Its total funding raised to date is now $12.5 million, including this latest chunk. 

It’s been quite long journey for the U.K.-based startup thus far. The founders’ initial business was in mobile phone and broadband price comparison — via its Top 10 Mobile Phones and Top 10 Broadband brands, respectively — which it sold to uswitch back in 2011.

It evidently hung onto the Top10.com domain name though, purchased back in 2010 for $1 million. The current specific focus on hotels is a pivot from a broader social recommendation and discovery platform which it focused on after exiting its earlier price comparison segment.

Top10 raised $3.5 million, from Accel Partners and others, back in 2011 for that social recommendation platform, which included things like music, with a Spotify app for collaborative music playlists, entertainment and travel.

Then in late 2012, the company narrowed its focus onto hotel search specifically — launching its current Top10.com in February 2013, and raising a $1 million extension round last summer from existing investors.

The Top10.com service draws on multiple hotel recommendation data-points — such as review scores, location, popularity (based on impressions, clicks & bookings) and price — to create a shortlist of 10 recommendations for users, saving them the bother of wading through multiple sites and reading scores of reviews. Users can then further slice and dice this list by factors such as price or specific hotel features they’re after like Wi-Fi.

The hotel shortlists also aggregate content from the likes of Foursquare and Google Street View to make results even easier for users to take in. And Top10.com compares live prices from major booking sites including Booking.com, Expedia and LateRooms to ensure its prices (and therefore recommendations) are up-to-date.

“We’re competing with lots of major brands across the travel landscape — from traditional review sites like TripAdvisor to price ‘metasearch’ platforms like Kayak or Skyscanner,” says the startup. “The aim is to provide an ultra-quick hotel discovery experience on every device, without bewildering people with options.”

Its focus on incorporating popularity within its hotel filtering algorithm means it can surface hotels that are “trending” in a particular destination — i.e. by looking at things like booking velocity, and traffic to particular hotels’ websites.

“We’re also experimenting with including social factors — for example Foursquare checkins and Twitter mentions — to uncover the most interesting and hip hotels,” it adds.

Top10.com says it’s now generating $1m per month in hotel bookings via its metasearch engine, and driving more than 3,000 hotel bookings per month.

Quarter to quarter it says it will “roughly double bookings”, but isn’t sharing more specific growth rates at this point. Nor is it breaking out user numbers. Its business model is based on taking a commission on bookings from booking partners (it’s not disclosing the exact percentage).

The startup currently employs 14 staff in London. This new Series B investment round will be used to expand the team, with an emphasis on hiring more engineers — and also to expand in Europe.

Top10 said it intends to move into new European territories throughout this year. It’s currently live in the U.K. but will be adding local language and currencies support, and spending on marketing and distribution beyond the U.K., to expand its reach beyond its home market. No word on the specific additional European markets it intends to move into, as yet.

Commenting on the Series B round in a statement, Daniel Waterhouse, a partner at Balderton Capital — who joins the Top10.com board, alongside Sonali De Rycker of Accel Partners — said: “We love investing in businesses where complex technical challenges are tackled behind the scenes, whilst leaving customers with a simple and satisfying experience, both online and on mobile, which leads to almost effortless transactions.

“Tom [Leathes, co-founder and CEO] and the team are an exceptional set of repeat entrepreneurs.”