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Passion for ideas for new companies come from lots of different places. I’ve learned to pay attention to them and see where they lead. Sometimes they lead somewhere; often they don’t but make me smarter about the world.
Recently an investor that I’ve gotten to know and really like started talking about an idea for the ultimate travel community web site – its purpose would be to facilitate a community comprised of members that love travel. The community would enable sharing of ideas, recommendations and travel experiences.
When I started playing around with user generated content and local search in 2005, one of the obvious applications to me was something oriented around travel. At the time I looked hard and found nothing particularly compelling. Ironically, the most interesting thing was the Yahoo Travel Planner which – while interesting – was very rough and underfeatured. It’s gotten a lot better but still misses the ball somehow – probably around its lack of real social networking and lens through “trips” rather than specific reviews in geographies.
So – I’m looking around for something like is the intersection of a deep content site like Yahoo Travel with a real social network / UGC site like the stuff at YourRunning.com. There would be a couple of pivot points: the user, the trip, a group around a trip, and groups of interests in trips. Each user would be able to generate a blog and other user generated content (video, photos, comments) around a specific trip. Groups would be able to communicate with each other (via whatever the appropriate messaging is – including real time stuff like Twitter.) All the data would be persistent – so someone interested in a specific trip could see what was good and what was bad. Search would be pervasive and accurate across all the content on the site.
The trip construct would obviously be monetizable through the creation of actual trips (and affiliate revenue / advertising.) This is one of the really interesting parts of the idea – once you lay out a trip online – as a function of other people’s trips – you can then make plane tickets, hotel reservations, dinner reservations, and event schedules automatically, get maps and directions, and have an itinerary generated. Assuming that all my fantasies about the Implicit Web become true, your compute infrastructure should be smart enough to do this for you automagically.
I’ve looked around for stuff like this but keep coming up short. If you are out there and working on this (or know of something that does this well and has a real community), leave a comment about what you are up to.
My friend Stuart Chapman – a partner at Esprit Capital Partners in the UK – sent me a note about his new portfolio company WAYN (Where Are You Now?) which is a self-proclaimed “Web 2.0 Travel Site.” It’s become very popular in Europe and – according to Stuart – is profitable and fantastically run.
WAYN’s core audience of Europeans regularly travel outside their own borders. They are trying to determine how this maps to the US market where travel outside the country borders is much less prevalent. While there’s a logical “outside the state mapping” (especially among adjacent red and blue states), it seems like the metaphor might be different .
If you are a frequent traveler – especially to Europe or other parts of the world – take a look and – if you are inclined – leave feedback for Stuart here.
I’ve had a rash of friends and colleagues struggle with various forms of cancer (most notably, but not limited to, breast cancer) the past 24 months – I guess I’m of the age where this starts to be a real part of one’s life (fortunately I haven’t lost anyone to this, which is a testament to progress since “cancer” is no longer an automatic death sentence.)
Derek pointed me at MyCancerPlace – an online community for people with cancer. It’s another twist on the resurgence of the rapidly spreading community model. It looks like it has just launched and there’s not much content yet, but at first glance it’s well put together. If you – or a friend / family member has cancer, it’s worth taking a look.
I was recently introduced to Dogster by Jeff Clavier. My skeptical gene kicked in big time when I first heard about it (a social network for dogs – c’mon) but then I went and played with it and got to spend some time with Ted Rheingold (not surprisingly the “top dog.”) Woof – Ted totally gets it! I put up short profiles for my dogs – Denali and Kenai – just to see what would happen. So far it’s been a much more interesting experience than my MySpace page. But then again – I like dogs more than I like people.
While Dogster and its sister site Catster are pretty “vertical verticals”, you can’t ignore 185,000 dogs, 78,000 cats, a whole lot of pageviews, and a lot of very fetching community content.