28. August 2012–
Social travel company Tripbirds is today re-releasing as a hotel-booking service after its first iteration as a travel tips provider apparently failed to take flight.
On the face of today's release, Tripbirds is a straight online hotel booking and recommendation service – think TripAdvisor, Hostelbookers for hotels – but adding users' social graph to the party. Users can see where Facebook friends have stayed and check out Instagram snaps for a non-official preview. Hotels can be sorted by all the usual suspects – price, ratings, location – as well as friends' choices, "likes" and number of Instagram photos.
Robert Kajic, Ted Valentin and Jonatan Heyman (below) started Tripbirds mid-last year and since then have brought on venture capital firms Index Ventures, Passion Capital and Creandum as investors. Andreas Ehn (ex CTO at Spotify and co-founder of Wrapp), Peter Read, SoundCloud founders Eric Wahlforss and Alexander Ljung, and Path founder Dave Morin also provided seed backing for the company late last year.
The previous version of the service, according to the press release out last March, helped users "see the world through the eyes of friends by collecting their Facebook and Foursquare check-ins and geo-tagged Instagram photos, grouping them by destination".
Tripbirds communications Martina Elm told TechCrunch the pivot – not unusual for a young company – aims to make the site “easier to understand", with just hotels on offer rather than hotels plus bars, restaurants and anything else people wanted to post. Tripbirds had about 10,000 users before the relaunch.
A flock of existing options – will Tripbirds get ahead?
Two aspects seem to set the new Tripbirds apart from TripAdvisor, say, which also offers Facebook integration and access to travelers' photos as well as official shots. One, TripAdvisor doesn't integrate Facebook recommendations with its search and booking function. Two, Tripbirds looks much better.
Good design shouldn't be underestimated, especially for the young and well-heeled. But will that, plus the emphasis on recommendations from Facebook friends, be enough to make Tripbirds a first stop rather than TripAdvisor or Booking.com, which Tripbirds actually uses to process its bookings?
Creandum's Fredrik Cassel is confident there's room in the lucrative online hotel bookings market for Tripbirds. "Joining social data with existing data about hotels makes perfect sense," he said in today's press release. "There are lots of travel and hotel booking sites out there but still a lot of room for innovation.”