Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Bezurk Sessions: Interview with Bezurk CEO Martin Symes on News Digital Media investment

Meta-search stories have been dominating the news in the last month, naturally driven by Kayak’s purchase of Sidestep. This has (unfairly) stolen a little of the deal buzz around the investment by News Digital Media (one of News Corps online arms in Australia) and OWW Sinapore's investment in Asian meta-search company Bezurk (my first mention of the story here).

I have a connection to the Bezurk deal through some consulting work that I did for them in early 2007. So it would not be fair to give my thoughts and any commentary around the deal. However I did have a chance to chat with Bezurk CEO Martin Symes today about his post-deal plans around Brand, Product and ongoing relationship with News. Here are some of the points that came out of our conversation.

Maintaining independence

Bezurk will maintain its independent operations from other News online assets. This is important (says Symes) to ensure that Bezurk can continue to work with other media partners and reflects that New has taken a minority stake. Symes and team will work hard to integrate activities with other News online assets (mainly in Australia) but this is not guaranteed. Will only do it where it makes sense. I read this to mean that the News properties such as News.com.au or truelocal.com.au or Moshtix nor Bezurk itself are compelled to link to each other but that each will have the inside running on a a pitch to the other. Bezurk is already an important part of the travel section on News.com.au but this occurred prior to the investment deal.

The other important factor for continued independence says Symes was that Bezurk needs to continue to think and operate like a start-up. This is both in the sense of cost control and lean operations as well as the need to have the flexibility to innovate.

New Plans - Some more people, some more product and some more markets

The deal has brought some much needed money into Bezurk that Symes intends to use for the following:

  • New Markets – about to launch in India off the back of a “portal deal”. Will open a small Sydney office in the next few months;
  • New people – will be announcing soon a new SEM manager and senior marketing appointment; and
  • New products – cars and packaging to come very soon. Will also allow them to uncut some of the corners around QA and testing that were required given their pre-deal budget restrictions.

So what does the Kayak/Sidestep deal mean for the meta-search market and for you

Symes (not surprisingly) sees the Kayak buyout of Sidestep and Yahoo! upgrade of Yahoo! Travel through the relaunch of Farechasee as a “fantastic validation of the model as people are prepared to put a lot of money into the sector.” He is sceptical that Kayak can deliver on the integration plans they have as quickly as they want (see my Interview with Kayak’s Kellie Pelletier for more on the integration plan).

Does meta-search need to be local market focused? Why should a consumer care that Bezurk is an “Asia Pacific market specialist”? Wont Kayak give a consumer all they need?

The last area of questions for Symes was around why he thought customers needed a local meta-search provider and what he thought Bezurk offers that is better than Kayak.

Symes says “Great question. We are still developing exactly what it is that each market needs by figuring out the local practices and booking patterns. I argued during my time at Zuji that you have to be as nimble as possible locally to access local content. Same is true in meta-search. You can get 80% of the way to meeting your customer’s needs by being a generalist but if want to be the player in a market, the authority then you need to do the last 20%. Need to be local.”

Congrats again to Martin, Craig and Ross on this deal.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Bezurk is a good site and has all the features one would expect from travel meta search, its interesting to note that when they launched there were allot of other "wanna be" start ups in this space who have not gone very far. What sets Bezurk apart? Is it the contacts which the founders have in the industry which has secured their success. I am thinking of doing a travel start up, but fear that my travel and media industry contacts are not senior enough to leverage off. Is success determined by technology or industry influence?

Anonymous said...

Bezurk needs a new name. Maybe it is just me, but I never remember how to spell it, and have to do several tries or Google searches to get the correct web address.

Also, have you heard anything about acquisition/deals with HotelsCombined (Aussie meta-search company)? They have a decent search and some good branded affiliates, like HotelPriceFinder.Com.

Ryan Pham said...

Just in case you didn't know, Bezurk has changed its name to Wego.com

Here's Tim coverage about the name change
Wego becomes Bezurk - but dodges the Trip name bullet

Anonymous said...
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