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Deal Radar 2008: Groople, Interesting Use of Context

Posted on Wednesday, Feb 20th 2008

Groople is an online group travel site, which helps with searching, planning and booking group travel. (Read my Interview with Groople CEO Mike Stacy) Groople is different from Expedia and Kayak in that it serves only group travelers, no individuals, and is thus a great focus on a specific “Context“.

Unlike any other travel site, Groople serves different segments like sports teams, student groups, families and also corporate travel. Currently it provides booking services at more than 60,000 hotels.

Recently, it has added a special feature called Groopvine where customers can easily and quickly create their own group trip planning page, invite guests, upload photos, and take advantage of a dozen other community features.

In 2003 it raised $5 million in seed funding from Boulder-based Fatty Tuna, and later in 2004 it secured $4.4 million in a Series A round from Colorado’s Vista Ventures and New Mexico’s Flywheel Ventures. In August 2006, it further raised $6 Million led by ArrowPath Venture Partners. Its existing investor further invested $5.2 million in 2007.

The site earns its revenues through commission from its inventory suppliers which ranges between 12%- 25% per transaction. The company claims that it has generated triple digit revenue growth while transactions have grown by 80%. Its partnership with Travelocity is also monetizing very well.

Its single major competition is from Group Travel Planet.

Acc. to CEO Mike Stacey, Groople’s revenue increased 100% from 2006 to 2007 and transactions increased 70% during the same period.

Other major accomplishments since the interview are as follows:

* “We launched technology that allows Groople customers to automatically book up to 20 rooms in a single reservation. We’re the only company with this technology. For larger groups we’ve launched automated RFP technology that decreases our response time back to our customers. This has significantly increased our conversion rates while at the same time lowering our cost structure. For both of these technologies we’ve quickly signed up one third of the US hotel inventory and are rapidly adding more chains and independent properties.” Good technology-leveraged scaling.

* “Our customer acquisition model continues to scale rapidly. In our number one target market, team sports, we have signed contracts with Mountain West, Big West, Eastern College Athletic Conference, Atlantic 10, Conference USA, Rush Soccer, and the Utah Youth Soccer organization, and United States Travel Baseball Association (USTBA) where Groople is the exclusive group booking partner. With each deal, we not only get the conference’s travel business, we also get access to each university in the conference. The response from athletic departments has been overwhelming. The business model is very attractive – Our sales cycle has been under 30 days and once we have a conference or a team, the business is recurring, high margin and insulated from any possible economic head winds.” Nice channel development.

* “To access our second target market, Corporate, we go though partners who serve this market in high volume. Later this year we will launch our connection to Rearden Commerce who has amassed over 1200 corporate clients at the end of 2007 and are adding customers at a rapid pace.”

* “In the month of January alone we signed additional distribution relationships with Frontier Airlines (not yet public), Cheapoair (10th most visited online travel website in November), Shermans Travel, and Onetime Travel.”

Looks like the company has very nice momentum, and is a good example of a company that aligns well with my Web 3.0 framework of focusing on a specific Context, and Personalizing within the nuances of that Context.

Groople could be a great acquisition target for many of the larger travel companies, especially Kayak, as part of its roll-up.

This segment is a part in the series : Deal Radar 2008


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. Kayak Consolidates Travel
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. LinkedIn Should Roll-Up Jobs
. Zillow
. TheFind
. Wize Ranks Products
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. Facebook Woes Coming?
. PlayFirst Plays Casual Games Well
. Kosmix+Adify - Potential Google Challenger
. Travel Ad Network Executing Flawlessly
. Adap.tv Trying to Tackle the Video Ad Problem
. Groople, Interesting Use of Context
. Lucidera
. InsideView's Clever Maneuvering
. Seeking Alpha
. Adify's Market Taking Time to Develop
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. Federated Media Needs to Focus
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. Regent , Frederick,Marryland
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