A year after the new round and four months after Kayak announced the expansion of Travelpost into review meta-search I wanted to find out from Yen how the company was going and what he thought about the market. Here is some of our exchange
BOOT: How is the business tracking?
Yen - four big milestones from the last twelve months:
- 5,000 sites in the index;
- Technology is working;
- Raised the second round; and
- Hit a million uniques in traffic.
Yen - want to increase the number of sites searched by 100-200 times. Beyond dramatically expanding the size of the index also want the display to be better customised based on consumer preferences.
Any other expansion plans? What about using ad networks to sell CPM campaigns for revenue raising
Yen - we are happy for now with the CPA model from click referral. Not under pressure to turn to ad networks and CPM. Areexploring expansion possibilities outside of English language but in no rush. Also to expand the product into destinations. Believes long term there is more money in destination activities than hotels. There is a third expansion plan but Yen would not share what is was.
BOOT: Has Kayak's Travelpost revamp left you worried? How about TripAdvisor?
Yen - would be flattering to think we are on radar of either of these companies [as a competitor]. Is convinced there is space for Uptake to take on both of them.
BOOT: Any worries about the fall in online advertising spend?
Yen - not really as not very close to it. Focused on CPA and lead generation revenue. While banner/brand spend is soft, performance based advertising continues to be very strong. Expects growth in CPA to be stronger than PPC as traffic is even more qualified than paid search.
BOOT: Now that you are through your early stages as a start-up what things have you learnt about launching a company and growing a business?
Yen - couple of things
1. There were some early staff members better suited to building prototypes and early products than for scaling the business. Learnt that it was OK to move people around and shed some people and move on;
2. Cash is king -"don't worry about dilution" and "if you have a choice don't spend a dollar"; and
3. Should have been more aggressive with the consumer experience part of the product. Were very aggressive on the search index and algorithms. Should have displayed the same aggression in building consumer experience and gotten to it three months earlier.
My Take on Uptake
I am not sure what it is about my most recent round of interviews with travel search and discovery sites. Like the others before him in this series Yen is sounding very confident and very relaxed. No furrowed brows and tough talk filled with reality checks and challenging growth plans. He has a comfort brought on from money in the bank and limited revenue pressure (or "lots of runway" as they say in the best Valley coffee houses). My guess is Uptake is actually more concerned about the Kayak move into review meta-search than they are letting on but Yen does have a product that is not only a year a ahead of Travelpost in functionality but most importantly a year ahead in terms of Google indexing. The meta-search model in reviews is not yet proven but the revenue model behind sending qualified leads to hotel companies and intermediaries is proven.
What do you think - is review meta-search a viable business? Can Uptake fight off product launches and marketing pushes from Kayak and TripAdvisor?