Kayak, SideStep, and Why TravelZoo is a Bargain

TravelZoo’s (TZOO) stock price should be 82% higher than its current price of $13.54.  I won’t hit on TZOO’s fundmentals, rather I’ll focus on a recent merger in the internet travel space.

Kayak.com recently purchased SideStep.com for $200 million dollars.  Both companies are within the travel search space, which would be loosely definied as a search engine for airline, hotel, and car rental prices.  These two companies represent the #1 and #2 players in the space, with Farecast a distant but growing #3.   You can read more about the merger in a very insightful analysis at Compete.com and TechCrunch.com.   


Using data from Quantcast.com, I know that SideStep.com had approximately 3.3 million unique visitors in the last 30 days.  Using the $200 million number reported in the press, that would value SideStep.com at $60.61 per unqiue visitor.  Applying this value of $60.61 per unqiue visitor to Kayak.com ($254m valuation), one could potentially assume that this was a merger of equals rather than a bigger company taking out a smaller company. 

Note that their are definite faults with my logic, specifically I’m only looking at the unique visitors numbers rather than revenue, ad rates, conversion rate, etc…  With that said, let’s go back to my original statement that TZOO is worth $24.76 a share (an +82% gain from today’s close).

Based on results on Quantcast, in the past 30 days TravelZoo.com has seen over 5.8 million unique visitors.  This trumps the traffic seem on both Kayak and SideStep, and is probably close to the total number of unqiue visitors between both sites.  Using the $60.61 per unique visitor Kayak paid for SideStep, that would value TravelZoo at $351 million or $24.67 a share.  In terms of revenue TravelZoo recorded over $77 million dollars in its most recent fiscal year while SideStep is reported to have generated $35 million in revenue.  

One of the biggest gems to TZOO is the 13 million plus opt-in email addresses they’ve collected through the years.  Let’s assume that only 6.5 million are active, you are still only paying $29.23 per email address at current valuations, and that is assuming the rest of their business has no value, which is not the case. 

Disclosure:  I own shares in Farecast and will most likely be buying shares of TZOO in the next couple of days

January 4, 2008 at 7:30 am Leave a comment

One Minute Gnomedex Recap

I had the great pleasure to attend Gnomedex 6.0 in Seattle over the weekend.  What exactly is Gnomdex?  From the official site:

Gnomedex is a Technology Conference
Who? Influencers, Entrepreneurs, and Enthusiasts!
What? A confluence of leading bloggers and new media

Speakers at the conference included Senator John Edwards, Michael Arrington, Phil Kaplan, and many more.  The speakers usually spoke from 15 to 20 minutes and then opened up to the floor for questions from the audience.

One post wouldn’t do the conference justice, thus for those who are interested I recommend that users search on Technorati (blog search engine) using the keyword, “gnomedex.”

On a side note, on Friday evening, Farecast had about 10 minutes (thanks Chris) to highlight our company launch along with the influence bloggers have had (and continue to have) in terms of driving buzz and traffic to our site.  To learn more about how bloggers have helped us launch our site visit FarecastBlog.com.

July 1, 2006 at 7:09 pm Leave a comment

Farecast.com Public Beta Launch Today!

I’m very proud to say that Farecast (as of this morning) has opened it’s site up the public (removing the private beta security).

Expectations are that tomorrow will be a very busy day (for myself and the Farecast.com).  Site traffic already shows that we are on pace to smash traffic records in the next couple of hours.  Note for those interested in getting a deeper look into Farecast, checkout the Farecast Blog.  Expect to get more information and insights into the company from the company blog that isn’t available on the site.

June 27, 2006 at 8:54 am Leave a comment

Blogging from 34,001 Feet Over the Pacific

Returning from a very enjoyable yet tiring trip to South Korea (congrats to my cousin on getting married) I'm able to access the internet thanks to Connexion by Boeing

Here are a couple of highlights of the service:

  • On a 10 hour flight in coach in the window seat, wireless internet access is a saving grace (note power outlets are available below the seat).
  • At $26.95 for unlimited access, it is a steal ($2.69 per hour).
  • Using Speakeasy's Speed Test, I found the connection speed to come in at 141kb download and 38kb upload (2nd test 216/46).
  • Service overall is reliable, though I have experienced a couple of complete outages (less the 5 minutes for any given outage).  These complete outages occured probably once every two hours for me.
  • MSN Messenger works well, with the ocassional couple seconds of lag time.
  • Interestingly I ran a couple of tests with Skype and it works (not great though). 
    • There is a lot of background white noise, which makes you have to speak a little louder.  The people around me didn't seem to mind, but longer term as more people try this, I can see it being an issue.
    • I compare the quality to the VoiceSteam (now called T-Mobile).  You can talk to someone through the service, but it a toss-up on the quality.
    • I found that longer the conversation went the better the quality of the call.  I think this might have to Skype's technology more then Connexion.

Overall at $26.95 (unlimited access), I would highly recommend this service to anyone with a laptop and a flight greater then 3 hours.

On a side note, Om Malik recently posted about financial issues around Connexion.  I'd love to see someone pick this company up on the cheap and build the service.

June 26, 2006 at 12:52 pm Leave a comment

Northwest Airlines Subscribes to Wisdom of Crowds

In a post back on May 10th, I highlighted a Wired.com article which talked about how airlines were looking to move away from row by row boarding to a more efficient board at will approach.

Now fast forward to June 2006 and in an MSNBC.com article Northwest announces a move toward a more efficient at will boarding approach.

The nation's fifth-largest carrier has done away with row-by-row boarding in coach after discovering that planes filled up faster when passengers could simply get on when they're ready. The change knocked an average of 5 minutes to 10 minutes off boarding times, the airline said.

June 26, 2006 at 10:39 am Leave a comment

Farecast: Boston Globe and Traffic Analysis

The Farecast Private Beta is currently limited to two originating markets, Seattle and Boston (destinations from these cities number over 100).  Part of our PR strategy was to focus on local press, and to date it has been very successful in the Seattle market with mentions in the Seattle Times and the P.I.  On the Boston front, things have been a little quiet, but this changed this Sunday.

The Boston Globe ran a favorable story about Farecast this Sunday in the business section.  A couple of highlights:

  • “We're doing the same thing the weatherman does," said Hugh Crean , Farecast's chief executive. “We haven't achieved clairvoyance, nor will we. But we're doing travel search with a real level of advocacy for the consumer."
  • “Henry H. Harteveldt , a vice president and principal travel analyst at Forrester Research in Cambridge, says Farecast is trying to do for travelers something no other website does. “It provides guidance, much as a stock brokerage provides guidance to investors on whether to sell, hold, or buy a stock," he said. “It's the next best thing to being married or related to the vice president for revenue management for an airline."
  • “This is not a small incremental addition to the shopping experience, but a quite significant addition," Mor said (Investor in Farecast, through Greylock).”
  • “It's a very, very sexy concept," English (co-founder of Kayak) said of Farecast. “If they execute this well, there's a chance they could be a very, very significant company."

Upon reviewing our site analytics for the day, Farecast saw a significant increase in traffic to the site compared to the previous days.  The assumption here is that this bump in traffic is directly attributable to Bruce Mohl’s story in the Boston Globe

To confirm this assumption, I reviewed our referring traffic report within our site analytics tool.  The Boston Globe didn’t even rank in the top 50.  I would attribute this lack of traffic from the Globe, to the lack of linking in the online version of the story (similar to the Seattle Times and P.I..  Instead readers of both the print and online version appear to be using Google to search for “Farecast.”

Traffic Report Green represents higher traffic levels

I confirmed this assumption by reviewing our geo-segmentation report.  This report aggregates site visitor information to determine from what state visitors are visiting Farecast.  Note this information is aggregated, and there is no way to determine exactly who visited Farecast, rather we can determine as a group, who visited Farecast.

This report shows a usually high concentration of visitors from Massachusetts.  Without any other press in the area, it is a pretty safe bet that the Boston Globe was the major driver of traffic this Sunday.

June 5, 2006 at 5:55 am Leave a comment

Farecast Launch: Day 1 and 2

Farecast Logo - With Tagline

Since I've arrived at Farecast about 10 months ago, we've been in stealth mode.  For those who don't know what stealth mode is, it is a conscious effort to stay under the radar until the company sees fit to open itself up to the public.  

On May 24th, Farecast took a big step prior to opening up the site to the public.  After months of planning, we started the process of meeting with the media to talk about our company.  The short description of the company is as follows:  Farecast is the first airfare prediction site.  For the past 3 years a team of data miners have been churning through 50 billion airfare price observations to develop an algorithm that could accurately predict not only the direction of airfare prices, but the price change as well.  

Currently Farecast has 22 employees, of which 5 are PhDs (22% of the company).

Day of one for Farecast included wall to wall interviews with the press and bloggers.  These interviews were lead by Hugh Crean (CEO), Mike Fridgen (VP of Marketing & Product Dev), Anne Taylor Hartzell (PR), and me (Manager, Marketing and Analytics).  The first two meetings of the day were with the two major local papers who had been closely following Farecast, since its’ founding back in 2003.  

The interviews were very interesting because of the different approaches taken by each reporter.  Overall the feel after each interview was that they went well and without any hiccups.  The next morning, we found out that Farecast was featured on the front page of the Seattle P.I. and the front page of the business section for the Seattle Times.   

After the articles ran in the paper and online, we noticed a significant spike in traffic to our homepage, along with a nice ramp-up to our waiting list.  Reviewing the traffic that morning, we found that neither the Seattle Times nor the Seattle P.I. were the major originators of traffic for Farecast.  Rather the top generator of traffic to our site was Google.  

The Seattle Times and Seattle P.I. print article never mentioned Farecast.com as the URL for Farecast.  While a number of people may have assumed Farecast.com from reading the article, it looks like a large number of people ran a search for “farecast” on Google to get to Farecast.com.  Interestingly the online versions of the Time and P.I. article did not include links to Farecast.com.  

The reporter for the Seattle P.I., John Cook, has a blog called John Cook’s Venture Blog.  I like to refer to him as the Michael Arrington of the Northwest, which is a huge compliment.  Prior to the article being printed in the PI, John posted a write up on Farecast in his blog.  The post included some of the same content as the print article, but also included screenshots of the site along with links back to Farecast.  

Day one started and ended off well, the whole company was excited about the upcoming stories in the local press.  While I had only joined the company 10 months ago, there were people on the team who had spent 3 years at company, all while in stealth mode.  Imagine going to work everyday for 3 years, and when people asked you what your company did, you couldn’t tell them. 

Note that for this launch, Farecast has made a conscious effort not to go after national media, but instead focus on the local and travel specific press contacts, and bloggers.  The reason for this was that while we were opening up about Farecast, and our airfare predictions, we were not opening up the site to the public.  The site was still only accessible if you were invited to the site.  We made the decision that we would not approach national media outlets until Farecast came out of private beta mode.

In addition to the media outreach on May 24th, we opened up our invitation functionality, which allows users to invites friends, family, and colleagues to the Farecast Private Beta.  Each registered users was given 25 invitations to share.  At the same time, we started to mail out to names on our waiting list, which included names all the way back into February (when we started collecting names on the waiting list).   

In my next post, I’ll highlight how the rest of week one of launch went for Farecast.

June 5, 2006 at 1:34 am Leave a comment

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The comments expressed here on eccoBay are my own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or beliefs of my employer.


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