On the heels of last week’s announcement of “social” hostel booking site InBed.me picking up a $1.2m seed round, another social travel site is launching today: Tripbirds, which lets users pick up travel recommendations from friends via other social networks, is now open for business after a private beta period that saw 4,000 sign-ups and 13 million check-ins and images collected.
At the same time, it is also announcing its own seed round of $740,000 (€550,000), with participation from an impressive list of backers, including Index Ventures, Passion Capital and Creandum, as well as angel investors Peter Read, Andreas Ehn (an early CTO of Spotify who himself has founded his own Swedish startup, the gift-card aggregator app Wrapp), Soundcloud founders Eric Wahlforss and Alexander Ljung, and the founder of Path, Dave Morin.
The idea of going online to get hotel recommendations is not new: sites like Tripadvisor have created flourishing businesses out of aggregating user reviews already. Neither is the idea of using friends’ recommendations to help you make a decision: sites like Gogobot do that.
What Tripbirds hopes to bring to the table is the idea of integrating several different social networks into a single stream that combines not just your contacts’ activity around particular locations, but any special recommendations that they make specifically for you, based on alerts you create around your future travel plans. These can be around good places to stay, but can also be a lot more specific, asking about, for example, great startups to visit during your next trip to Stockholm.
Given that we are increasingly using a number of different networks for different functions, the idea of services that integrate that data into a single view is smart. And is happening elsewhere, too: just yesterday Jolicloud launched Jolicloud Me, which takes photos, videos and other content from disparate cloud-based services and lets the user view them in a single place.
Right now, Tripbirds picks up location data from your Facebook, Instagram and Foursquare networks. Its CEO Tel Valentin says that it will be adding Twitter in the next month, and Tripit some time after that. And he adds that starting tomorrow, users will also see their Tripbirds activity in their Facebook streams.
One company not on Tripbirds’ list of social networks to integrate is that of one of its investors: Dave Morin’s Path. Path has yet to roll out APIs, and “and it’s not clear whether Path wants that,” says Tripbirds CEO Ted Valentin. “We’re not talking about this with Morin at all at the moment.”
Tripbirds is currently only accessible via a website, although Valentin says that the company is working on an iPhone app for the service as well.
Another interesting twist on this social media launch is that, unlike many others, it is working in a business model from the word go: it is based on hotel bookings. For each time that a user books a hotel through Tripbirds, the company gets 10 percent of the total booking price. It’s a proven model that has worked well already for Tripadvisor, Valentin points out.
He says that for now the intention is to keep those affiliate deals limited to hotels, and not expand into restaurant or other kinds of bookings: “If we can nail hotel recommendations, you don’t have to do more to have a valuable business,” he says.
Up to now, of the 4,000 users so far on the service, only 500 of those are in the U.S. but Valentin believes that this is the company’s most natural market, because of the fact that U.S. consumers are “already social.” “They already use services like Foursquare and Instagram a lot, so Tripbirds makes the most sense for them,” he says.