08:00 AM

Tripit Builds Cult Following for Online Travel Plans

200810091552.jpg"I've never been associated with a product that has had so much positive feedback," says Gregg Brockway, a serial entrepreneur and President of Tripit - an online service for organizing travel plans. Although the service is still in beta, it has quickly built a cult-like following especially among road warriors.

The service is simple to use, you make your travel arrangements wherever you want and email your confirmations, etc to Tripit and the service puts together a master itinerary, which can be shared with colleagues or family.

"If people had to manually enter their information we would have six users. Our technology understands the content of an email and extracts the right information. This is not an easy thing to do, there are many different email formats, email clients, and travel service vendors."

Mr Brockway is a co-founder of Hotwire, one of the most successful online travel booking sites. But he has not always been successful, his first venture, after leaving the world of private equity funds, was a startup that tried to automate doctor's offices. "That experience taught me a lot of great lessons," he says.GreggBrockway.jpg

Tripit's revenue model is lead generation and other services. "There is a long list of things that we could do, for now, we're concentrating on improving the service and providing people with great tools."

Tripit can automatically provide information on plane delays, it will provide directions from the car rental place to the hotel, and there are more services in the future. For example, Tripit hopes to integrate its service into a large social network "so that your social graph knows that you will be in Boston, as an example."

[Personally, I'd prefer not to tell people where I'll be because I don't want to upset them and explain why I didn't have time to visit with them.]

Tripit is currently "pre-revenue" but the future is bright. Mr Brockway points out that Tripit is the only company that can provide a complete view of a person's travel, where they stay, cars rented, etc.

"Travel sites usually only have a partial view, from what a person booked with them--it is a fragmented view."

As users spend more time with Tripit, the technology learns and accumulates a better view of the travel habits of each person. That can produce significant revenues from lead generation and related services.

Tripit is being used by travel agents to compile itineraries for clients, and by travel departments within businesses.

"We thought that consumers would be our largest users but its is 80 per cent business travel," says Mr Brockway. "Business users like the report features and they also like using our mobile service. About 80 per cent of people accessing our mobile web site are iPhone users." I expressed surprise that it wasn't 80 per cent Blackberry users. "I was surprised too but the Blackberry has such slow web access that people don't use it access the Internet."

There are hundreds of online travel sites but Tripit is managing to stay neutral. "We don't take bookings so we don't compete with a lot of sites, they see us as a value add."

Tripit has raised $6m and despite the current tough times, the company is well positioned. Mr Brockway says his team is lean and well financed. "Most of the money is still in the bank."

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How Tripit works: http://assets.tripit.com/press/tripit_factsheet.pdf