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Innovation in Travel: Meet Six New Companies Who Are
Reinventing The Travel Space

by Rosie Akenhead, Industry Analyst & TDS Director, EyeforTravel
September 30, 2011

“What’s new on the horizon for travel?” “Who are the new start-ups we need to be watching?” “Who are the new players offering something different?”

These three questions were very much at the core of The EyeforTravel North American Innovation Award, held as part of TDS North America just over a week ago in Las Vegas. EyeforTravel picked six of the industry’s hottest start-ups and invited them to “pitch” to our panel of investor judges. Before we reveal the winner, we’ll look back at the chosen participants:

Roger Wong, Director of Product & Marketing, Room 77: The concept here is that if you can choose your seat on a plane, why can’t you choose your room in a hotel? We all know what it’s like to turn up expecting sea views and find ourselves overlooking some grubby bins. What Room 77 offers is the chance to see what individual rooms within a hotel look like, and how to book that room. With 560,000 rooms in the database (and counting), this is not a force to be reckoned with.

Brian Harniman, President, This start up aims to capture the business of corporate travel for small business with 20 employers or less. This market is ripe for the picking with over 40 million of these enterprises in the US alone.  The unique hotel search facility enables you to find a business hotel with all the small but important requirements you might need- whether that be an iron, wifi… or even on-demand movies for evenings off!

Travis Katz, CEO, Gogobot: With a host of national and international awards under its thumb, and a spread of investors already committed to the Gogobot phenomenon, there’s no doubt that this website has a lot to offer. Miles away from the likes of TripAdvisor, the ethos of Gogobot is that when you plan a trip, you should get the advice and tips you need from your extended network of friends, family and colleagues, and from people who “travel like you.”

Adam Goldstein, CEO, Hipmunk: Hipmunk is a brand new style of flight meta-search that aims to, in their own words, “take the agony out of travel planning.” It tells you things that other meta-search sites frankly don’t, like which will be “dark flights” for  plane sleepaholics. It then shows you in a clearer than clear capacity- the cheapest, the quickest, the shortest stopover, and more. With features like this, it is understandable why so many have converted into Hipmunks.

Sam Shank, CEO, HotelTonight, HotelTonight is an app for iphone and now android, which gives consumers the opportunity to book a same-day hotel whilst on the move, direct through your mobile phone. The business model is to use distressed hotel inventory to fill last minute rooms with last minute guests. It’s a super slick app, and the deals can knock off up to 70% of the usual hotel price. Great for consumers and good for hoteliers looking to fill those empty hotel rooms.

Chris Patridge, Chief Backbid Hotelier, Backbid,  Backbid is a brand new company that truly empowers the traveller. Have a flexible hotel reservation already? Post it to backbid, and let other hoteliers in the same area bid for your business, and let them offer you a cheaper rate or more incentives to move over your booking to them. An exciting business model and unlike any other we’ve seen.
So our six panellists came up against our three judges- Leonard Brody, of, Dana Settle of Greycroft Partners and Jonathan Kletzel of PWC. They were grilled on every aspect of the business- the investment potential, the business model, the consumer perspective and more.

The judges were thrilled to announce the winner as HotelTonight and the runner up as Hipmunk. The CEO & Co-Founder of HotelTonight, Sam Shank, previously CEO of and prior to that CEO,, was at the show to collect the award. There will be more specifically on HotelTonight’s plans for the future in our next article in this series.


Rosie Akenhead
Global Events Director
Toll Free 800 814 3459 ext. 7229

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