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Mike’s Opinions

TripAdvisor Spent $34.8 Million on 6 Acquisitions in 2013 – Skift

The acquisitions TripAdvisor makes generally seem to be acqui-hires rather than great businesses or threats to their own business. All have been solid teams and products with a vision that needed more support, though some of the products were shut down and the teams re-focused on internal products. It would be hard to argue that this strategy has not been successful for them so far.

TripAdvisor Looks For More Hard-Hitting Advertising in 2014 – Skift

I was very curious to see how aggressively TripAdvisor was going to move into assisted booking. It makes the most sense to focus on mobile, where popup windows are especially cumbersome. The OTA’s that rely on those popups for traffic, such as Expedia, may benefit from increased conversions via assisted booking, but the lack of direct traffic may affect other areas of their business.

Online travel agents and the growing quest for personalisation

I think the ultimate question is: How do we make consistently relevant recommendations without limiting choice? Consumers are drawn to OTA’s and user review websites because of the breadth of choice, and personalization paradoxically takes choices away from them. As consumers begin to encounter personalized solutions, it may be that at first they are uncomfortable with having their choices limited, but over time become trusting of the algorithms, if indeed the algorithms work well for them. Personalization also favors mobile, where discovery of the perfect travel option is more dependent on a great user experience than on the web where thousands of landing pages provide Google fodder.

Skyscanner’s airfare data opened to airlines, airports, and marketers for B2B Big Data access – Tnooz

It is in the consumer’s best interest to be able to explore where they can go for how much, and understand how to secure the best prices. While some players have provided tools and data to a degree, it’s about time someone opened this data up more fully to allow companies and startups to innovate on. Perhaps more “inspiration” sites will be able to create better business models and drive meaningful sales. Love the potential applications for DMO’s and the airlines themselves too.

Not only about big investment – A guide to bootstrapping a travel startup

This article contains inarguably stellar advice. But while reading, one angle to play devil’s advocate occurred to me pertaining to point #3:

If you don’t just build, you may not have the same opportunity to really get a feel for what doesn’t work, why it doesn’t work, and find the right pivot into something that does, with those early mistakes acting as a potentially valuable guide going forward. This can be especially valuable and arguably even required learning if it’s your first business. Failing, as long as you really learn something, can be a worthy experience. This mentality is best-tolerated and even encouraged in Silicon Valley.

Proper market research is always prudent, but any sort of anecdotal evidence (e.g. a verbal commitment vs someone actually shelling out cash for your product) may only go so far. At least in some cases, a robust prototype at a minimum may be needed to get conversations with and attention from the people with whom you hope to do business, much less get them to open their wallet or make a real commitment. This of course depends on the level of your connections and perhaps cunning in your chosen area of the market. What Stephen did with RezGo to build for a customer he already secured is certainly a near-perfect scenario, and kudos to him for that.

Another common excuse for entrepreneurs who build before doing their homework is that they believe are creating something the world didn’t know it needed. And that may indeed be the case. But, as implied, it’s better to raise capital in that scenario than try to bootstrap because those types of successes are exceptions to the rule.

I am not advocating that anyone build blindly – just exploring that side of it. Ignore any of the advice in this article at your own peril!

Markets slam Expedia over a reported Google penalty, but revenue impact may be tiny – Tnooz

Could this have been a shot across the bow in an epic war as Google moves towards transactions? In the context of positioning by Google, TripAdvisor, and Booking.com, Expedia’s acquisition of Trivago and partnership with Travelocity make all the more sense. But ultimately will Expedia be able to compete with personalized offerings from Google that tap into consumer data that Expedia can never dream of accessing? Heck, will anyone?

Personalization in travel: Privacy, transparency and the reality of the consumer landscape

There will be many opportunities for companies to make major strides in personalizing the online travel search and planning process over the next few years as the amount of publicly available data continues to explode and people provide more and more access to their information, especially via 1-click mobile app updates, even if it is at the expense of privacy… Privacy will always be one of the biggest challenges in accessing the information necessary to truly make accurate and relevant proactive recommendations that will consistently resonate with people as their individual tastes change from day to day or year to year. The only ones who can get close enough to the customer to do this at scale seem to be Google, Facebook etc who have permission to access to emails, chats, calendars and other daily-use products, as well as checkins and other public data. The rest of us will have our best chances to address personalization well in our chosen niches.

Startup pitch: OutBounding – a platform for discovering and sharing quality travel content

The explosion of SEO-generated content, blogging, and the quest for social media visibility has filled the interwebs with so much noise, even Google, Facebook and Twitter’s algorithms have appeared to be outpaced, as they continue to struggle with serving us the most relevant, high-quality content we seek. Sure, we find satisfactory content every minute of every day. But how many times have you missed out on superior content which was available yet not surfaced via the algorithm? In all likelihood, quite frequently. Products that help us discover great content through human curation are interesting again. Thankfully Google is giving long-form, high-quality content better treatment than ever, but for now there is still a need for services like Outbounding. On a related note, I look forward to a day when Google does not reward content producers for frequency of publishing.