GoPollGo, a real-time polling tool that lets brands and media properties collect and analyse feedback, has announced that it has been acquired by Yahoo. The news comes just one week after the search giant announced the acquisition of mobile personal organization app Astrid, as part of its ongoing acquisition spree. It comes at the same time that Yahoo has confirmed the acquisition of travel site Milewise. For now, GoPollGo says that it will be shutting down its services on its site, as well as its embeddable widgets and mobile app.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed. While Milewise is joining Yahoo’s operations in New York, GoPollGo will be at its Sunnyvale HQ.
“Today Milewise and GoPollGo joined the Yahoo! mobile team. GoPollGo created a cool social polling app and the team has joined our mobile org in Sunnyvale,” Yahoo told us in an emailed statement on the two deals. “Milewise created a great app to make travel planning easier and personalized. They have joined our New York mobile team.”
GoPollGo, which was launched in 2011 and has received some $425K in funding from IdeaLab and CrunchFund (the VC run by TC’s founder Michael Arrington), has run millions of polls in its time. In January this year, after launching an iOS app, the company released a beta of a premium service it called Promoted Polls. Like Twitter’s Promoted Tweets, this let pollsters pay a little extra to insert their questions into a stream of other, non-paid polling questions.
For now, it’s not clear how GoPollGo’s technology is going to be used in the startup’s new home. The three founders, Ben Schaechter (a former developer at TechCrunch), Sam Grossberg and Paul Kompfner, are relatively vague about this point in their note on the site: “We’re so excited to bring the knowledge and experience we’ve gained at GoPollGo to Yahoo!” they note. “We share an enthusiasm for building delightful user experiences, and we couldn’t be happier to join forces.”
But you can see where this might fit into Yahoo’s wider business strategy if it does get used. For one, the company is trying to increase ways to keep users interested in its content and more engaged, the current buzzword for the digital ad industry. GoPollGo has done things like power polls that ran on ABC.com’s site alongside the presidential debate. The idea is that these polls, instead of seeing users jump to other sites to watch coverage and how people interact, or turning off altogether, they stay tuned in there with the poll being one way to keep their interest up.
On the other hand, it’s interesting that GoPollGo had already introduced a paid service with Promoted Polls. With companies like Google and Facebook largely dominating online advertising right now in areas like search and display, smaller players like Yahoo (similar to Aol, TechCrunch’s owner) needs to get more innovative and creative with how they target would-be advertisers with services that they will pay for. Adding polls as, effectively, another marketing/advertising unit would be one way to do that.
Interestingly, the whole area of polling has been one that others have eyed, but have been less than successful in tackling. Facebook launched, and then pulled, a Polls product between 2007 and 2009. Then a follow-up/adjacent product, Questions, was similarly launched in 2010 but then shut down in October 2012, effectively giving in to competition from the likes of Quora. Most recently, Facebook’s foray into canvassing opinion, the ability to create threaded comments and replies on Pages, can effectively be used as a template for Q&As (bringing to mind Reddit’s AMA events), and, yes, polls.
More to come. Note on GoPollGo’s site is below.
GoPollGo Team is Joining Yahoo! Mobile
We are excited to share some big news: We’re joining Yahoo! For two years, we’ve worked incredibly hard to make it as easy as possible to get feedback from friends and followers. It has been so rewarding to build a product that scaled up to millions of people and supported large media properties and diverse brands — all while staying true to promise to deliver fun, engaging, real-time experiences.
We’re so excited to bring the knowledge and experience we’ve gained at GoPollGo to Yahoo!. We share an enthusiasm for building delightful user experiences, and we couldn’t be happier to join forces.
Huge thanks to all our users, partners and customers who helped us realize our vision. As of today, we’ll no longer be supporting GoPollGo’s properties on the site, embeddable widgets or mobile app. If you have any questions or want to get in touch, shoot us an email to email@example.com.
Routehappy is about to launch a new way for travelers to search for flights — and TechCrunch readers can actually take a look now.
The idea, as explained to me by co-founder and CEO Robert Albert, is to move beyond the focus on price and schedule that you find on every other flight search site. Sure, those things are important, but as I noted when Routehappy raised seed funding last year, when you suddenly find yourself stuck in a cramped seat without Wi-Fi, you realize that other factors matter, too.
So Routehappy has built a big database of information drawn from “hundreds of sources” — including commercial data providers (mostly for on-time data), reviews, and the airlines themselves. It then looks at the various factors that a traveler might consider and combines them into a “happiness score” between 1 and 10. So if a flight has lots of leg room, a great entertainment system, and Wi-Fi, it should get a high score. And actually, schedule does play a role in the score — for example, there’s a demerit if there’s a long layover or if it’s a red eye flight, because those things will probably make you unhappy.
Albert gave me a tour of the site, where he showed me lots of different searches. His main point: There are plenty of improvements that Routehappy can help you identify that don’t make a big difference in the price. He pointed to flights where the difference between WiFi and no WiFi, or between a personal entertainment system and those crappy overhead TV screens, was only a small percentage of the overall price, or there was no difference at all. He also pointed out that choosing by airline isn’t enough — there are some airlines with a significant difference between the planes in their fleet.
I was particularly impressed by Routehappy’s interface. Although searching by happiness is not something I’m used to (the closest thinge I’ve seen is Hipmunk‘s “agony” ranking), it was easy to understand how to use the site. You can also filter your results based on specific factors (I’m guessing a lot of you would be most interested in Wi-Fi), or, yes, on price — I kind of like the idea of ranking flights by price and then choosing the cheapest one that doesn’t seem totally miserable. There are also nice little touches, like Routehappy’s ridicule of planes that still have overhead entertainment systems — “What is this, the ’80s?”
Routehappy explained in 90 seconds from Routehappy on Vimeo.
As for how reliable this data is, well, there’s definitely some acknowledged uncertainty. On the Wi-Fi front, there are flights that are simply listed as “yes” or “no,” but also others that say “maybe” or “test.”
Albert said some airlines are actually happy to work with Routehappy, because “they don’t want to be commoditized,” but he noted that even their data can be wrong, and that he’s tried to help them correct their own information at times.
When I asked how he can be sure that Routehappy’s data is better than the airline’s, he declined to get specific, saying that this is part of the “secret sauce.” (Actually, he offered more details than that — see update below.) Still, he insisted that it’s the most accurate information out there. He also acknowledged that there’s a small chance that you could still get surprised, particularly if an airline switches planes, but he said that happens less than 5 percent of the time.
“There’s never an absolute guarantee, but [if you use Routehappy] you will have done everything that a human being could do to optimize your experience,” he said.
If you want to try out Routehappy for yourself, the site should go live at around midnight Eastern tonight. Until then, you can visit this page and use the password “flyhappier.”
Update: Actually, Albert was more forthcoming about the company’s data collection process than I suggested above — he did refer to the secret sauce, but he also offered some details, which he elaborated on via email:
We’ve done three important things:
First, we’ve built a dedicated team of Flight Geniuses who know air travel inside and out and make sure we have the most reliable data by flight possible;
second, we’ve built a complex system of databases and algorithms called Flightpad (which stands for Flight Product Attribute Database) that allows us to store, score and match specific details on billions of flights (down to the class of service and sub version of the aircraft scheduled);
finally, because the data does not exist from any single source, we hand pick data from hundreds of disparate sources, thoroughly fact check it and only allow it on the site after it’s passed a comprehensive, peer-reviewed process for quality.
Baidu, Hillhouse Capital, and GGV Capital have invested a total of $57 million in Chinese travel site Qunar, according to a report by First Financial Daily (link via Google Translate). The news comes as Qunar weathers a boycott by third-party service providers triggered by a change in its operational and pricing policies. South China Morning Post writer Doug Young speculates that Qunar might have hiked its prices in a bid to increase revenue and profits before making its first public filing for an offering.
A spokesman for Baidu said that the company is not currently commenting on the First Financial Daily report.
The $57 million round was reportedly closed in March, but the current valuation of Qunar is not clear yet. Both Baidu and GGV Capital are already investors in Qunar. Back in November 2009, GGV Capital led an investment round of $15 million that included Mayfield Ventures, GSR Ventures and Tenaya Capital. In July 2011, Baidu became a majority shareholder in Qunar when it invested $306 million. The round valued Qunar at about $483 million, according to First Financial Daily.
For Baidu, investing in Qunar allows it to expand its offerings beyond its core search business and better compete with rivals Alibaba Group and Tencent (which made an investment in online travel company eLong before the Baidu-Qunar tie-up). After its July 2011 investment, Baidu also integrated Qunar’s search results into Baidu’s travel vertical. The deal was seen as important not just for the two companies, but because it also marked a turning point for Chinese startups, which had previously focused more on IPOs instead of acquisitions. At that time, Qunar CEO Zhuang Chenchao said that the cash would be spent developing new services like a hotel search and mobile apps.
The newest reported investment–and current boycott–means that investors will probably have to wait for Qunar’s initial public offering. First Financial Daily reports that rumors had previously placed the timing of the IPO at the end of next year, but other factors contributing to a delay could include a tougher market for Chinese IPOs and an increase in scrutiny by Chinese regulators for companies seeking to list on the country’s two stock exchanges.
Word has just come in that TripAdvisor has acquired Jetsetter, Gilt’s private community for exclusive travel deals.
Reports back in October had suggested that Gilt was attempting to spin off Jetsetter at a rumored price somewhere between $30 million and $50 million. These reports came just months after Jetsetter CEO Drew Patterson was asked to step down following so-called “mutiny” among the employees and an exodus of senior executives.
At the end of last year, Jetsetter accounted for less than 10 percent of Gilt’s overall revenue. With Gilt looking to go public sometime this year, holding on to an underperforming side project with unhappy employees just wasn’t a good move.
By the beginning of last month, it seemed as if the deal was pretty much sealed. Though a few other potential buyers were said to be circling (Travelzoo, Expedia, and American Express were named at the time), TripAdvisor was pinned as the most likely buyer.
It appears that the Jetsetter brand will be maintained for the time being, with operations continuing out of the company’s New York City office.
The terms of today’s acquisition have not been disclosed, though we are, of course, digging for more.
Online travel site Peek wants to make it easy for users to discover and book experiences in a variety of destinations, so it rolled out services to three new cities — New York, Miami and Orlando.
The idea behind Peek is that you tell it where you want to go and it tells you some really interesting things to do there. For the most part, Peek is focused on really far-out, unique experiences, such as lunching with an astronaut at Kennedy Space Center or flying in a World War II-era jet above Orlando. With the addition of its three new markets, users will be able to book hot NYC nightclubs, eat their way through the High Line’s food trucks, book a luxury catamaran off the coast of Miami, or charter a private sword-fishing trip near Ft. Lauderdale.
And it’s got a transactional business model, looking to get folks to book these experiences directly on the site. Peek wants to provide its users with an easy and simple place to book experiences without having to worry about going site-to-site looking for individual tickets for various tours and whatnot.
That said, not everything that Peek suggests is paid. It augments those paid-for experiences with free and cheap suggestions on its city pages, and also has suggestions from local tastemakers and celebrities in each of the markets it serves. So for instance, in New York City, Peek has local suggestions from the founder of Alice + Olivia, Stacey Bendet Eisner.
By rolling out market-to-market, Peek can curate the best (or at least, some of the most interesting) experiences for its users. But that also means that its full city guides and activities are only available in a select number of markets. With the addition of its new East Coast destinations, it has more than 10 cities available through the site, but there’s still a long way to go to unlocking all the world’s interesting travel experiences.
To provide travel and activity suggestions in markets it doesn’t yet fully serve, Peek opened a user-generated aspect to the site not long after it launched, allowing anyone to submit “Perfect Days” in cities all over the world. That not only allows its users to find suggestions for things to do in all the cities it hasn’t gotten around to yet, but it also has the side benefit of providing suggestions for unique experiences in markets that it’s hoping to launch in soon.
With that in mind, look out for Peek to add a few more destinations soon. On its site, it lists Boston and Las Vegas as two upcoming destinations, adding them to a roster of locations that already includes San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego and Napa Valley, as well as the various islands of Hawaii.
Peek co-founder and CEO Ruzwana Bashir says the company has seen more than 100 percent average monthly growth in bookings since the site launched about six months ago. And it continues to add paid-for activities and providers, not only in new launch markets, but also in places where it already does business. New providers include the Tribeca Film Festival, SeaWorld, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Miami Zoo, California Academy of Sciences, and Mondavi Winery.
Peek was founded by Bashir — who previously worked at Gilt Groupe, Art.sy, Blackstone and Goldman Sachs — and Oskar Bruening, who worked at VMWare and Symantec. The company has raised $1.4 million in seed funding from investors that include Jack Dorsey, Eric Schmidt’s Innovation Endeavors, SV Angel and Khosla Ventures.