Am at the PhoCusWright Travel Innovation Summit. 32 companies - mixture of start-up and mature companies- are pitching a new product in the hope of gaining industry support. We are half way through the summit and a theme is emerging very quickly around travel planning. No surprise of course. Again and again at non-travel internet events it has been the trip planner that has generated the buzz. Witness TripIt and the 2007 TechCrunch40 event and GoPlanIt at the 2008 TechCrunch50 event. Today at PCW we have already heard from TripIt, TripJane and Travelmuse (update and now YourTour update 2 and now NileGuide). At WebInTravel we also heard from entrip. Common functionalities are coming through each of these companies - the ability to integrate and add trip elements and content from other websites; the ability to share and build a network; and the ability to build a "living" itinerary with all elements.
The differences are just as stark as the similarities. Each of these companies (and others) are approaching the business from a different angle.
In the case of TripIt - the experience starts with using TripIt to combine the disparate itineraries that appear in email from an airline, hotel provider, destination service etc.
With entrip - the experience starts with a map. Consumers connect the points they wish to travel between and entrip provides (or facilitates) the content and booking functionality.
At GoPlanIt - the experience starts with a destination. Crowd sourcing and social networking elements recommend a trip itinerary including details on activities.
For Travelmuse - the experience starts with content. A regularly published online travel magazine that has morphed into a trip planning and sharing system.
With YourTour - the experience starts with traveller desired experiences . Building a trip recommendation based on the broad trip desires entered by the consumer.
Through NileGuide - the experience starts with the desire to build a guidebook for a destination. One document to replace the the myriad of documents that even the simpliest of trips end up generating.
And finally for TripJane - the experience starts with Facebook.
I was working on setting some criteria for judging which of these will be the most successful. Trying to set up a scoring or ranking system to judge on areas such as technology, UI, marketing, business model and people. I realised that if I continued with this thinking, then I was setting me up for a very complicated task (lots of work). Critically I quickly came to the realisation that this list of judging criteria was all but irrelevant because there is one success factor that is more important. I call it "survivability". It seems circular that the most important cirteria for success is the ability to survive but in the case of a travel 2.0 start ups that are content heavy I see the most important factor for success the ability of the company to survive for a the next two years. To keep the product up, live, growing, changing and adapting. Staying alive while the long path to consumer acceptance is trod. Giving the company time to test itself and prove that their approach is the right one. I have a personal favourite in the list and there one that I don't get but that's not important. What is important is that these companies need to make sure that they have a lot of runway (ie can survive for a long time on the money that they have) and are able to change and adapt on a dime.
What do you think?
UPDATED - to include YourTour
UPDATED 2 - to include NileGuide