Trippy, the social travel planner which first debuted back at TechCrunch Disrupt in 2011, is shifting away from the friends-only model with the official launch of a new Q&A-focused traveling planning service today. The new service lets locals and others familiar with an area discover and respond to questions from other travelers and potential visitors.
The company is also announcing an additional $3.5 million in Series A funding, in a round closed last year, and led by eVentures. True Ventures and Sequoia Capital also participated.
Explains Trippy founder J.R. Johnson, the company had struggled with the social travel service it previously offered, which wasn’t growing. “The pure friends route that we initially took – it just wasn’t natural,” he says. “That’s not what our users told us they wanted. They wanted to browse more, and they wanted to get more outside their friends group.”
Johnson declined to provide user figures to illustrate the size of the Trippy community before or after the changes.
The new product, a Q&A-based community, was in private beta testing for around 6 to 9 months before being soft-launched in January to a wider group. The design for the revamped site is engaging and easy to use, as it’s a more familiar search engine-like interface that then leads you to pages about places or other topics you enter as queries.
Trippy also walks you through a few questions during sign-up, asking you to name a handful of places you know about or places you’ve lived. This helps the site direct relevant questions to other travelers your way. And these questions don’t have to be as simplistic as “What are some good hotels in New York?,” for example, but can be more conversational, like “Where do the cool kids stay in NYC these days?”
As you answer questions, citing places and venues in your responses, those items are plotted on a map to the side of the screen. You can also add photos, either from your computer or social networks or pick from other Trippy sources via Creative Commons (openly licensed images).
Though this version of Trippy is new, one thing to note is that the site already has a lot of quality content, thanks to the time the company has already spent building up its social community. For example, check out questions about “seeing New Zealand,” “Copenhagen in July,” or “Cape Town in 2.5 days.”
There is some overlap between Trippy and more general-purpose Q&A sites like Yahoo Answers or Quora, for instance, but the former tends to offer low-quality or dated responses, while the latter may have the occasional answer but without photos or maps. Trippy’s larger competitors, meanwhile, are places like travel behemoth TripAdvisor, which did 50 million reviews in the last 12 months.
“Reviews are fine, but they lack a lot of context…You’re talking about your experiences related to a certain place you visited,” says Johnson of places like TripAdvisor. End users then have to try to determine how trustworthy the review is, and try to pick out the pieces that are relevant to them. A Q&A session is different, he continues, as you can ask for a very specific piece of information and receive a list of answers in response.
While Trippy is now no longer just a friends-only service, it doesn’t limit you from bringing your friends into the experience, of course. Your Q&As can be shared out to your personal network via integrations with Facebook and Twitter, or you can share the link directly through email, IM or however else you choose.
Johnson says that this sharing is how he hopes Trippy will tackle the distribution problem in the near-term, but admits that SEO is the longer-term play here. “A lot of travel research is still done via SEO,” he says. “That will be an important part for us going forward.”