Travel-related services are an efficient market: consumers prepared to spend money, businesses competing through innovation. Y Combinator has funded more than a dozen startups in the travel industry. There’s companies that provide solutions for flight, local transportation, and lodging.
FlightFox and GetGoing, both from YC S12, compete primarily by offering lower prices. FlightFox is crowd-sourced flight search. Travelers describe their requirements (luggage, pets, visa issues, etc). Expert travel agents then compete for their business, earning a commission when the flight is booked. GetGoing attempts to save consumers money through a smarter flight search. Flights may be searched by airports, cities, countries, regions, or “experiences”. GetGoing also offers a “Pick Two, Get One” service for leisure travelers: select two potential destinations, GetGoing finds the best possible deal between those options.
Adioso (YC W09) and Hipmunk (YC S10) focus on simplicity. Adioso is a natural language flight search engine that is both date-flexible and destination-flexible. Examples of acceptable searches include “San Francisco to NYC late October” and “Austin to anywhere under $200 next week”. In its own words, Adioso “seeks to be the perfect travel search companion for backpackers, vagabonds, nomads, or anyone with an appetite for spontaneous travel.” Hipmunk offers a flight search interface that is simple yet powerful, comparing the offerings of all the top travel sites and organizing them into a single detailed list of results. Hipmunk also provides similar services for finding a hotel, making it easy to book both flight and lodging from one place. Hipmunk has been featured by Time, Forbes, and CNN.
Mass Transit, Cabs, Bicycles, & Cars
Embark, InstantCab, and viaCycle all help you get around without a vehicle. Embark (YC W12) makes free iPhone apps for using twelve different mass transit systems across the U.S. and London. The apps include detailed information about routes and also work offline. InstantCab, also from YC W12, is both an app and service for getting a taxi in San Francisco. The app, available for iPhone and Android, summons a nearby cab. Taxi drivers can use the service to earn more fares. viaCycle (YC S12) makes it easy for schools, businesses, and even cities to manage a bikesharing program. viaCycle provides both custom bike locks and software for managing a bike fleet. viaCycle offers the potential for reduced emissions, less traffic, and getting exercise.
FlightCar (YC W13) and Ridejoy (YC S11) are car-sharing services. FlightCar provides car owners with the option to rent their vehicle while traveling rather than pay for long-term parking. Car renters can save money by renting through FlightCar. Ridejoy is a community-driven marketplace for sharing rides. Drivers and passengers simply list their origin, destination, and (optionally) date of departure. Ridejoy then lists potential matches, making it easier for everybody to save money on trip costs.
Finding A Place To Stay
Zaranga and MyVR are services for the vacation rental market. Zaranga (YC W13) is effectively AirBnb for professionally-managed vacation rentals. Travelers search professionally-managed properties that are listed by hosts. Zaranga screens property listers and provides an interface for managing bookings. MyVR (YC S12) provides services only for hosts of vacation rental properties. Property owners use MyVR to design professional websites for their rental units, create marketing campaigns on popular travel websites, manage bookings, and hopefully earn more business.
AirBnb (YC W09) is the popular service that enables travelers to “stay in unique spaces in 192 countries”. Rather than stay at a hotel, AirBnb provides over 300,000 unique spaces that includes 200 treehouses and 500 castles. Hosts are typically real people with some space to spare.
There’s really no excuse for not venturing beyond your comfort zone this summer. There’s startups with inexpensive options for flight, wandering, bumming rides, and finding a place to stay. If you have a car or an extra room, there’s even ways to earn money. Perhaps a future post I write will focus on startups that enable people to share their experiences.