Kayak, mulling an exit strategy, added someone to its board who has executed one -- Brian Sharples of HomeAway.
In a blog post, Kayak notes notes that Sharples, co-founder and CEO of HomeAway, led the vacation rental business as HomeAway "raised $405 million in private funding, acquired 17 websites, and in June 2011, the company underwent a successful IPO."
Meanwhile, Kayak, which likely is considering a replacement for some of its search technology given Google's acquisition of ITA Software, filed an S-1 statement in November 2010, but hasn't carried out an IPO to date.
Sharples does not replace anyone on the Kayak board and joins chairman Terry Jones (Essential Ideas) and directors Joel Cutler (General Catalyst Partners), Michael Moritz (Sequoia Capital) , Hendrik Nelis (Accel Partners) and Gregory Stanger (Chegg Inc.), as well as Kayak co-founders Steve Hafner and Paul English.
"Brian's industry knowledge makes him a valuable asset to our board, and we're looking to adding his guidance and leadership," Hafner says.
Kayak notes that Sharples is "an expert in technology brand strategy," having "counseled" Apple, Microsoft and Dell.
Kayak apparently is looking for some counseling, although it has some experienced advisors on its board already.
Since its 2004 founding, Kayak has raised about $196 million in funding, and is looking for an IPO or other strategic transaction to pay off investors and to fuel the extension of its global growth.
Does bringing in Sharples signal cooperation between travel metasearch engine Kayak and vacation-rental listing site HomeAway or is the move designed, as Kayak says, merely to tap into Sharples' experience?
Will Kayak launch a vacation rentals tab possibly featuring inventory for HomeAway?
That's not at all difficult to envision, but it's not necessarily in the cards as a result of Sharples' arrival.
HomeAway is looking to increase its distribution, of course, and has partnerships with Gogobot and affiliate relationships.
Google Ventures invested in HomeAway, and Google chairman Eric Schmidt put some money into Gogobot so perhaps cozy investment and board relationships do indeed lead to strategic cooperation.
And, Kayak has done some minimal experimentation with offering vacation rentals.
For example, if you conduct a Kayak hotel search for San Francisco January 17 to January 22, you'll see a vacation rental filter in the left-hand column, and if you winnow the results for vacation rentals only, you'll see the following offerings from owners. Pricing isn't posted online and you have to call the property or visit their websites to initiate the booking process.
The "vacation-rental listings" have been in place for an extended period, are very limited and some are shown merely because they have the word "apartments" in their descriptions or names.
Further strategic cooperation is possible between Kayak and HomeAway, but not a foregone conclusion.
There is a healthy amount of respect at Kayak for HomeAway and Sharples, and the two companies even are believed to have had an institutional investor in common.
Meanwhile, the move is not merely a benefit to Kayak; after all, Kayak is an established travel brand and HomeAway gets additional street cred from the new ties, as well.
The relationship doesn't hurt Kayak, either.