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Internet, Management, Travel & Tourism

Kayak CEO Steve Hafner Interview

By William Bakker | 05.20.08 | 4 Comments

Excellent video of an interview PhoCusWright president Philip Wolf conducted with Kayak CEO Steve Hafner during the Travolution Summit. I’m a big fan of Kayak. Both their business model and their Interface are things envy. A must watch for strategists in the travel industry.

My favourite quotes:
About his OTA days: We all build great companies. None were great websites, they don’t search everything, they don’t show you everything. there is a bias in how you display the results, in particular on the Hotel side. Wouldn’t it be interesting to build a website that we wanted to use. And we weren’t biased about what we sold and we would allow you to build supplier direct or agency direct cause that’s what we do as consumers. So as executives, why don’t we build a website like that.
The middle is a mostly PPA, we’ll get a commission or a referral fee.
The next phase is turning Kayak into a vertical ad network.
Our goal is simple. We want to be the number one travel side for consumers information world wide.
Conditions you need for meta search. You need fragmentation in the supplier and agency community. You need a deep penetration of online booking habits. And then you need a vibrant marketplace for monetizing that traffic.
This month we’ll do 45M queries. That more then pricelines, that’s half the size of Orbitz. We do more searches a day then United Airlines.
My observation would just be that Travelocity, Expedia, Orbitz, Kayak; we’re all websites. So the website should be were you put your efforts,; were you innovate. Where you eliminate all the friction for what the consumer wants to do. And I would warrant you that these websites haven’t changed all that much in quite a long time despite having massive human capitol and massive P&L’s.
Travelpost; if you’re going to Tripadvisor its really hard to get to the hotel review. They post lots of impressions and clutter around it. We’re going to fix that.
Our mission statement is: Number one travel site world-wide. Best place for advertisers to market their services. And do it with the lowest operating costs ever seen. We’re going up against Google, we’re going up against Expedia, and we’re doing it with a Craigslist operating philosophy. It’s crazy.
Here we are, 10 years into online travel and buying a simple airline ticket still sucks. We need to fix that part of the equation before we move definitively into the complex travel.
Microsoft is in a tough spot. They’ve gone on record to say they want to compete against Google. They’re not really going to get there with horizontal search so they’ve got a strategy to go vertical search. So they’re assembling the Microsoft Office of vertical search. You’ll see them buy a real estate site, a job site, a travel site, and weave that together into a search volume competitor to Google.
Any place that consumers goto for travel information and that advertisers spend money on is a competitor of ours. Plain and simple.
We’re small or a reason. Not because we can’t hire. We’re small because we want velocity on the website development. I want to continue that innovation stream and beat those other guys at having a great website.
There is a lot of disruption still to come on the user generated content side. If I had to start another company in this space, that’s were I would start. Nobody today has done a great job at integrated user generated reviews with data about rates and availability, what’s a deal, and what’s not, etc.
Thanks for making this available Kevin.

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