The wisdom of the crowd is fine when it comes to certain things, but when it comes to something like travel – which hotels give you the most bang for your buck or might suit you best, which restaurants and sights to hit –deferring to the wisdom of a crowd of experts is a much better idea.
That’s what TripExpert is all about.
A new resource for travel decision-making, TripExpert provides an alternative to user review sites, which research indicates are often unreliable and subject to abuse. TripExpert has a patent-pending algorithm that uses expert reviews from respected sources to calculate the TripExpert Score – the authoritative statement of the overall quality of a venue. Which is whyThe New York Timescalls it “Kayak for hotel reviews.” Since its launch, TripExpert has expanded to cover not only hotels, but restaurants and attractions as well.
Founders Emily Hughes and Andrew NIcol give us the grand tour.
Tell us about the service.
TripExpert rates and ranks hotels, restaurants and tourist attractions around the world, based on reviews from trusted sources such as Frommer’s, Travel + Leisure and The New York Times. We present reliable, succinct information that helps our users make decisions on where to stay, dine and visit, with confidence. At TripExpert, we believe better data makes for better choices.
How is it different?
Virtually every other travel website relies on user reviews. These are problematic for a number of reasons, which we have examined at length on our blog. In summary:
- According to some studies, as many as 40% are fake.
- Reviewers often have no basis for comparison; for example, the average traveler stays at one hotel in each place they visit.
- The people who post reviews are often those who have had some kind of marginal experience that doesn’t affect other people.
- It’s difficult to get to the bottom line because of the sheer volume of reviews and the difficulty in determining which are legitimate and useful.
TripExpert was conceived as a better, smarter alternative to user-review travel sites.
What market are you attacking and how big is it?
In the United States alone, the online travel market is valued at about $150 billion and is growing rapidly. Our strategy involves tackling a relatively small segment of this market -discerning travelers who value professional advice in choosing a hotel in major destinations — and gradually expanding our coverage and broadening our appeal.
What is the business model?
We take a commission on hotel reservations made through our partners, which include Booking.com and Hotels Combined. We also plan to generate revenue by syndicating our data to third party sites.
What inspired the business?
We founded TripExpert for two reasons. First, we were dissatisfied with user review sites like TripAdvisor. Our cofounder, Emily, who has a background in the hospitality industry, has seen first hand the ways user-generated content sites can be easily manipulated. Second, we knew that there was a great, untapped resource out there in the form of expert reviews. We were inspired by their writings, and by sites like Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes that aggregate professional reviews in other verticals.
What are the most popular spots in NYC, according to your data?
According to expert reviewers, the top hotel in NYC is the Crosby Street Hotel, with a TripExpert Score of 98. Our top restaurant is Daniel, which scores 99 based on reviews in 19 publications. We just launched our coverage of restaurants last week, and we already feature over 2,500 restaurants in all price categories; our highest-ranking budget option is Roberta’s Pizza in Bushwick. The top tourist attraction is the Frick Collection (TripExpert Score: 98).
What are the milestones that you plan to achieve within six months?
Our primary focus at the moment is on mobile. We will be releasing iOS and Android apps within the next six months. We’re also working continually to improve our scoring algorithm and add new source publications. We currently feature about 300,000 reviews from approximately 40 publications. By this summer, we plan to have over half a million reviews from over 50 sources.
What is the one piece of startup advice that you never got?
Both co-founders come from industries other than tech: Emily worked in hospitality, and Andrew was previously an attorney. Although actually working on a startup is certainly challenging, perhaps the most difficult part for someone who is making a career change is deciding to do it in the first place. It’s not easy to give up everything that you’ve worked for and start on something entirely new. The advice we never got was, simply: do it. If you have an idea that you’re passionate about and that you are prepared to commit yourself to, be courageous and make the change. And, ideally, surround yourself with mentors or advisors who’ve done the same.
If you could be put in touch with one investor in the New York community who would it be and why?
We’re not focused on one particular investor or fund just now. When we feel we’re at a point in our growth that outside investors will be the next step, we’ll be looking for a great fit with the right group or individual. We’ll want our investors to be as enthusiastic about TripExpert as we are.
Why did you launch in New York?
Both of us make our home in NYC, so it was a natural choice.
Where is your favorite outdoor bar in the city for a drink when it is actually warm out?
There are several great places around Williamsburg to enjoy when the weather is nice, but the Manhattan views from The Ides atop the Wythe Hotel are tough to beat.