Vacation rental service HomeAway has doubled-down on content, reviews and recommendations for its guests by leading a $20 million Series C investment round in social review engine Gogobot.
Other participants in the round including Battery Ventures and Redpoint Ventures.
The Gogobot integration promises to offer a more engaging and accurate destination experience for guests, as they can tap into the knowledge base on 60,000 locations to learn about the most recommended places in-destination. These recommendations include restaurants and activities, curated by Gogobot's community of travelers and experts.
This integration follows on from last year's Insider Guides product which allowed customized guides to be created for HomeAway property listings.
On this front, the company says:
HomeAway plans to integrate Gogobot’s reviews and Guides of more than 60,000 destinations into its app and websites. In addition, Insider Guides – custom online guidebooks powered by Gogobot and created by HomeAway’s vacation rental owners – will become more widely available on Gogobot’s site and within its app.
The company continues, highlighting how the investment will be integrated into the HomeAway product to enhance the guest experience:
HomeAway’s multi-million dollar investment and partnership with social review engine, Gogobot, creates a way for people to discover the best places to stay, eat or play.
The investment helps Gogobot accelerate its growth and expand its reach to more travelers and drive more recommendations from local experts such as HomeAway owners. Using Gogobot, travelers can access reviews and recommendations from like-minded people who are either Facebook friends or members of Gogobot travel communities.
The company has also integrated two other popular Silicon Valley startups in a bid to enhance the overall utility of the service to its customers: Uber and Instacart. Uber will offer bookable rides throughout a guest's stay and Instacart will make it easy for guests to stock up on groceries before and during a stay.
In the announcement, Brian Sharples, CEO of HomeAway, suggests that this is only the beginning of the platform integrations for the brand:
These partnerships represent the first of many services we plan to integrate into our platform and the HomeAway app, with a focus on helping ensure that our travelers better enjoy their time together. We’re also excited about our investment in Gogobot, as we believe it represents the next generation review platform for the travel industry.
On the Uber side of things, access will be only available in America at the moment, with plans to includes all cities in which Uber operates globally. Instacart's 15 cities will be included in the app, and will also be expanded alongside the startup's reach.
Sharples is focused on creating a better-than-hotel experience that further differentiates the HomeAway brand:
Nearly ten years ago when HomeAway was founded, our mission was to make the process of finding and renting a vacation home as easy as a hotel. Our new mission is to make the entire rental experience even better than staying in a hotel by leveraging the power of mobile and the exploding industry for local services that are capitalizing on the power of this platform.
For Gogobot, this latest investment tops up the tank after taking on a total of $19 million since 2010 from the likes of Battery Ventures, Keith Rabois, Crunchfund and Redpoint Ventures. The last raise was the Series B closed back in November of 2011.
By further integrating with HomeAway listings, the startup also benefits from increased distribution for its content library.
As with all content businesses, distribution is key in order to increase the return on the content asset. In addition, the last investment was several years ago, which either required an increase in revenue to cover the monthly overhead, a sale or another round to deliver more time to develop a sustainable revenue model.
In addition to a potential later return on exit, HomeAway's investment is a content play that ensures access to Gogobot's extensive database of recommendations. This increases differentiation with both guests and property owners, and encourages more repeat visitors with the increased satisfaction that comes from better, more informed and locally curated trips.
In further comments to Tnooz, HomeAway CEO Brian Sharples sees Gogobot as an ideal fit for Gogobot within the company:
The strategy is to make it super simple to run a vacation home. We’re still more or less competing with the hotel industry, and as our customers have smartphones, one of the simple ways to be less stressed is to communicate more both pre, during and post stay. We’re going to start integrating services by companies that reduces stress for our guests - like InstaCart’s grocery service.
With Gogobot, there were two motivations. One was that its a good investment. We’ve started to do some investment and when I look at TripAdvisor, no one has been able to crack that - yet, Gogobot is one company that has been able to break out a bit, with 16 million users. We felt that it was also a company that we could help move a little quicker, as we have our own local experts - our owners.
And then since we have the new strategy to push out the mobile hospitality app to everyone, it's mobile first. We want to get serious on that. Personalization is going to be a huge part of our business going forward, and these guys are doing that really well. We'll learn from them and I'll join the board and be able to expand my knowledge all around.
Video explaining Gogobot Insider Guides on HomeAway:
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