Founded in 2004, the original name of Farecast in the incubation phase was Hamlet.
Five years later, after having sold Farecast to Microsoft for $115 million and successfully integrating it into Bing last summer, Bing Travel General Manager Hugh Crean faced a Hamlet-like question.
To stay or not to stay?
Word has leaked out that Crean has decided to leave Bing Travel, effective Oct. 23.
His colleagues at Microsoft learned of his imminent departure yesterday, Oct. 2. The news was a shock to some members of the team.
So here’s the spin on Crean’s exit, and I have no reason to doubt its authenticity.
Crean is leaving voluntarily, and at the top of his game. Sort of a mission accomplished.
His departure occurs as Bing Travel, with its slot on the Bing homepage, transitions even further from an autonomous travel entity into another -- albeit important -- “product” within the Microsoft Bing search portfolio.
New reporting schemes on corporate flow charts were in the works to punctuate that change.
Call it the further Microsoft-ization of Bing Travel, as the travel entity gets further absorbed into the Microsoft culture and technology club.
As that was occurring, Crean’s role had changed over the years from president and CEO of Farecast to general manager of Bing Travel and finally to a sort of principal engineer of travel search at Microsoft.
Not that Crean’s eventual departure would be unheard of.
At the TravelCom conference last Spring, Kayak CEO Steve Hafner predicted that some among his fellow metasearch panelists, which included Crean, wouldn’t be around in 2010.
These sorts of things happen with CEOs when their independent companies get acquired and swallowed up by larger corporations.
Along the way, Farecast and Crean, a former National Leisure Group and Priceline exec, had a major impact on travel metasearch and online travel generally.
Farecast burst on the scene at a PhoCusWright conference in 2005 when Crean revealed that Farecast would undertake the impossible: data-mine the historic minefield of airfares so Farecast could predict fare trends in the wacky, seeming irrational world of airline pricing.
Crean was secretive about the business model and skeptics abounded. How would Farecast predict airfares and why would airlines cooperate when Farecast might be telling consumers not to book a flight on a certain day because the fare might dip a few days later?
Well, Farecast and Bing Travel honed their Price Predictor techniques about fare trends, triggering a wave of imitators.
And, Crean’s departure might not be the lone exit among the original Farecast team. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the tech brains of the outfit have similar plans.
The whispers I’m hearing tell me that Crean will decide his next move by Jan. 1. Options may include a role at a hedge fund, becoming an investor, getting involved with another start-up or perhaps lying on a beach somewhere for awhile.
What does it all mean for Bing Travel?
I guess it all depends on what kind of job those Microsoft folks do with it.