TechCrunch reported last night that travel meta-search site Kayak had closed a whopping $196 million round and then turned around and bought competitor SideStep for almost that same amount. The press release officially describes the transaction as a merger and both brands will apparently be preserved, but Kayak is clearly the dominant party and acquirer. Confirmation of that comes in a curious quote from Kayak CTO Paul English in the release, “As a native Bostonian, I am also personally gratified to finally see an East Coast technology firm purchasing a West Coast counterpart.”
Interestingly, Kayak says that there’s “less than 10 percent overlap” between the two user bases, despite the fact that they essentially offer the same value proposition to consumers. The expertise and capabilities of each site are expected to complement those of the other and there will be some integration of elements. The combined company will also aggressively continue to expand outside the U.S.. Kayak currently has sites in the UK, France, Germany, and Spain.
Kayak-SideStep competitors include Yahoo’s FareChase, Mobissimo, Farecast, and then, of course, the range of more traditional travel sites such as Orbitz, Expedia, and Travelocity. It’s a fiercely competitive, if lucrative, online segment. Kayak-SideStep has a way to go to catch these more traditional sites, which have more established brands and many more users.
Online travel is estimated to be worth roughly $80 billion by comScore. According to information in the TechCrunch post, “Kayak is reportedly doing around $50 million in yearly revenues, compared to SideStep’s $35 million.” Deborah Richman at Search Engine Watch says the companies previously reported driving gross sales of $2.5 billion and $1 billion, respectively.
The companies said that the combined traffic and revenues of the two will created the “world’s fifth largest travel site.”