UPDATE: Expert Media Inc., which does business as Room 77, raised $3 million, according to an SEC filing. And, one of the company's directors is Hugh Crean, the former CEO of Farecast, which became Bing Travel.
A bunch of travel -- and nontravel -- heavywieghts have ponied up "several million dollars" for the latest stealth travel startup, Room 77.
And the under-the-covers startup already has made an acquisition.
That's according to veteran travel industry investor and executive Brad Gerstner, who is founder and chairman of the enterprise, which he describes as an effort to bring further innovation to hotel shopping.
Gerstner says the luminary lineup of investors are all busily involved in other enterprises and wouldn't be messing around with Room 77 unless it had something special to offer.
"If we weren't passionate about what we're trying to do, we wouldn't be doing it," says Gerstner, who heads Altimeter Capital and is a former co-CEO of National Leisure Group.
Kevin Fliess, who formerly headed trip-planning website TravelMuse, is general manager and vice president of product for Room 77, which has a growing staff of 14 people based in Sunnyvale, Calif.
Room 77 is currently recruiting "whip-smart engineers," according to its job listing.
Investors in Room 77 include Par Capital Management [also investors in ITA Software, Farecast, Orbitz Worldwide), Sutter Hill Ventures [Farecast], Gerstner, Fliess, Rich Barton [Expedia founder, TravelPost chairman], Erik Blachford [also of Expedia fame], Sam Shank [DealBase CEO and founder of the original TravelPost], Bob Pittman [who created the programming for MTV and is former CEO of AOL Networks] and several others.
Just as Barton's NewTravelco acquired Travelpost even beore it has a chance to reincarnate itself, Room 77 acquired Optrip, a trip-planning website and metasearch engine, before the existence of Room 77 was publicly known.
Calvin Yang, the founder of Optrip, is vice president of engineering for Room 77. Room 77's engineering team, including several former Google engineers, built the Optrip search engine, Gerstner says.
Besides the investors, technical advisors for Room 77 include Rasmus Lerdorf, the creator of the PHP programming language, and Mark Johnson, the chief data officer of Groupon.
Hotel advisors for Room 77 include Thomas O'Toole, chief marketing officer at United Airlines and former CMO at Hyatt Hotels.
Gerstner says the Room 77 team has been working on the project for a little less than a year and plans to unveil its offering in late 2010 or early 2011.
Since there is some cross-pollination between some investors in Room 77 and the new TravelPost, Gerstner was asked if the two companies will work closely together.
He said TravelPost would be on the partnership and distribution list, as would "a lot of people."