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Groupon Buys Travel Search Site Uptake Mostly For Headcount
Uptake was an ambitious travel site that never quite broke through. It used social data and sentiment analysis to try and provide better travel discovery and decision support to its users. Originally called Kango, we wrote about the site in 2008 when it relaunched as Uptake.
AllThingsD today reported that Uptake had been acquired by Groupon for something in the “teens of millions” (between $10 and $20). The company raised roughly $14 million from venture capital inventors, so it was basically a “break even” transaction. Apparently Groupon wanted the team and will integrate most of the key personnel into its Palo Alto, California office.
In 2008 Uptake sought to aggregate content from existing travel sites to provide a better, more flexible and more comprehensive travel search experience:
Co-founded by Yen Lee, who was GM of Yahoo Travel, UpTake describes itself as a “travel search and discovery site.” It’s aggregating consumer reviews and listings information from many travel sites to attempt to create a trusted destination to begin travel search. Content comes from Expedia, Fodors, goCityKids, Virtual Tourist, TripAdvisor, Citysearch and Yahoo, among others.
The site analyzes and applies sentiment analysis to the content of reviews to be able to call out attributes like “pool,” “kitchen,” “babysitting” or “oversized rooms.” It also presents ratings from third party sites side-by-side so that users can gain a consensus view of the hotel’s quality and service.
In the beginning Uptake was probably inspired by Yahoo’s ahead-of-its-time TripPlanner social travel site, which was shut down a few years ago. Co-founder Yen Lee was the GM of Yahoo Travel, as mentioned. (Somewhat ironically, Jasper Malcolmson who succeeded Lee as GM of Yahoo Travel later became the founder of deal site Bloomspot.)
Even though the Uptake site is slated to continue in the near term it will probably be shuttered ultimately. This is the all-too-common pattern with such “acqhire” transations. In addition, Groupon currently has a rudimentary travel site in Groupon Getaways (in partnership with Expendia).
When I heard about the acquisition during one of my SMX sessions earlier today my first thought was that Groupon might be evolving and doing something more creative and interesting with travel. However I thought something similar when Groupon acquired check-in site Whrrl, which was later shut down.
Travel has been a very successful vertical for Groupon and deals in general. There’s potentially a great deal more that could be done by Groupon with a bona fide travel site like Uptake. However that’s not the route that Groupon appears likely to take.