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Deal Radar 2008: UpTake

Posted on Tuesday, Jul 8th 2008

UpTake is a travel site that offers users options to help them plan themed trips such as kid- or pet-friendly trips, girl getaways and romantic escapes. The site caters to the millions of people who have yet to decide what type of holiday they want – where to go, what to do, where to stay, what to see. (I must admit, I tend not to be that kind of a traveler … I decide on things and THEN start researching.)

UpTake offers travelers choices to help them make informed decisions about their travel plans. The company’s recommendations are not influenced by their advertisers; rather, the site links users directly to the booking site the users choose.

What sets this company apart from competitors like Expedia, Orbitz, Travelocity and TripAdvisor is that they have indexed 20 million reviews across hundreds of sites to come up with the best solution for a travel query. The results the site offers are specific to the query and to the words used in the search. For example, for the exact same location, words like ‘kids’, ‘kitchenette’ and ‘babysitter’, will bring up very different hotel results than words like ‘fun’ and ‘women’. In short, the service is a semantic search engine based only on travel. UpTake has also incorporated Google Maps into their site.

UpTake was established in September 2006 as ThreeAll. They were then called Kango and was in stealth mode until December 2007, when they received their Series A round of financing of $3.95 million from Shasta Ventures. The company was previously backed by NG Venture’s Elliot Ng, who now serves as VP of marketing.

UpTake was founded by Yen Lee and Gene McKenna and is based in Palo Alto, California. As reported on TechCrunch. In May 2008 they came out of private beta as UpTake. The team includes Huanjin Chen, formerly Ebay’s search architect, and Boris Galitsky, a natural language processing guru who previously worked for the British government.

With approximately $87 billion in travel booked online, there is an endless stream of new companies founded to tap into the market. But like many other startups, the UpTake site itself needs some work – some of the links don’t work, some reviews don’t open. Even some of the search results I saw are of questionable accuracy / value. For example, I did a query on “Romantic Getaway” in New York, to which, it returned the Westin on Time Square as the second hotel, after Le Parker Meridien. I cannot imagine considering a Westin as a romantic getaway, but that may just be me!

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

. MyStrands is MyChoice
. Kayak Consolidates Travel
. Trulia Can Consolidate Real Estate
. Girls Like Stardoll
. LinkedIn Should Roll-Up Jobs
. Zillow
. TheFind
. Wize Ranks Products
. Retrevo
. Piczo Picture Perfect
. Xanga Losing Steam?
. hi5 Going Strong
. Bill Me Later - Blessed by Amazon
. Takkle Tackling Socially
. Amie Street and the Twenty First Century Renaissance
. eHarmony Replacing Yenta
. Zappos Wants to be Amazon When it Grows Up
. Figleaves and Specialty e-Tail
. Twitter Gaining Momentum
. Tagged In Exit Freeze Danger Zone?
. Digg - Packaging news
. Facebook Woes Coming?
. PlayFirst Plays Casual Games Well
. Kosmix+Adify - Potential Google Challenger
. Travel Ad Network Executing Flawlessly
. 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
. Glam Media's Fashion Forays
. Federated Media Needs to Focus
. GigaOM
. TechCrunch
. Yelp
. Slide
. Elance
. oDesk
. SKS Microfinance
. TutorVista
. Seventymm
. Cleartrip
. Yatra
. MakeMyTrip
. Intacct
. Genius
. Xactly
. Jigsaw
. Comcast Buys Plaxo
. Encover
. PayCycle
. Daptiv
. Inform
. PayScale
. Joost
. VideoEgg
. Mercado
. YuMe
. BitTorrent
. Geni
. Blurb
. Mimosa Systems
. Metaweb
. Brightcove
. Revver
. Cake Financial
. Mint
. Powerset
. UpTake
. PaidContent
. Mixpo
. Biz360
. Sabrix
. Coremetrics
. Revision3
. Appirio
. Metacafe
. Pandora
. Hulu
. Fabrik
. Flock
. Wetpaint
. ID Analytics
. Ning
. Telanetix
. Dimdim
. ON24
. Veodia
. Jive Software
. Realtime Worlds
. GirlSense
. LifeSize
. Grockit
. Playfish
. Nurien
. NTR Global
. AmberPoint
. Trion World Network
. PrimeSense
. Verticals onDemand
. Gaia Interactive
. PubMatic
. Mahalo
. Akoha
. Sportgenic
. Turbine
. ImageSpan
. Entrepreneur Journeys
. Aggregate Knowledge
. Fliqz
. Elastra
. Challenge Games
. PivotLink
. iForem
. Operational Memory LLC,Raleigh, North Calorina
. FeedRoom
. GameDuell
. Fotolia
. EchoSign
. Mevio
. Local Marketers
. Baynote
. BlogHer
. Passenger
. Mobixell
. Wigix
. ExpertCEO
. Zyrion
. Archer Technologies
. SunRun
. NewsGator
. PermissionTV
. Creative Water Solutions
. Carbonetworks
. WiZiQ
. Regent , Frederick,Marryland
. ClickCare
. Studywiz Spark
. Saki Seat
. ShiftWise
. Neulio
. Revolabs

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Nice write-up. Some comments:

1. Massive search volume is around search intent trying to get destination information. According to Jupiter Research, 56% of people are looking for destination info vs 44% for accomodation. We believe many of those people are not sure where to go and that’s why there is so much volume there.

2. Agree that the site can continue to improve! We’ed love to hear your thoughts on what would be the biggest opportunity for improvement.

3. Westin Times Square is romantic? Huh? 🙂 I told our search architect that I wouldn’t go anywhere near Times Square for any time of vacation especially a romantic one.

So we looked at this one product. The relevancy was driven by these factors:
– lots of romance-oriented reviews. For example:

-were very kind and nice the rooms very very clean and cosy
-was friendly and helpful and once she noted we -were on honeymoon she upgraded
a romantic hotel
-our honeymoon and was very pleasant wishing us all the best
-our honeymoon at the end of april and it was excellent
-our honeymoon was full of wonderful trips and tours
-very large for a new york hotel room
-by friendly staff who upon finding out it was our honeymoon promised to move us

– high romantic getaway ratings for some sites
– romance friendly amenities with positive ratings. E.g. health spa, health club, room service, lounge, movie, near to entertainment

Anyway, what you are highlighting is the intensely personal nature of travel planning, and our idea is to give people the data in one place so they can make decisions for themselves.

Go figure. People go to Times Square for their honeymoon. 🙂

Would love to meet up for coffee and get your thoughts on where we should go next! Thanks Sramana.

Elliott Ng Wednesday, July 9, 2008 at 2:27 PM PT

I told Yen a while back, that at this point, the place to go with Search is Personalization. Your points above say exactly the same thing … guess some people may go to Time Square / Westin for their honeymoon. You wouldn’t.

Sramana Mitra Wednesday, July 9, 2008 at 2:41 PM PT