Sometimes, there can be a little too much disruption. So goes the thesis of Joost Schreve, the former head of mobile for TripAdvisor, who left the company last November and started his own startup, KimKim, in December.
The nascent company — newly seed-funded with $1 million from investors, including NFX Guild — is catering to the presumably many people who no long want to plan their next vacation by scouring the web. Its simple, secret weapon? Good old-fashioned travel agents, who talk online with customers via a conversational interface.
We talked with Schreve earlier this morning to learn more about what he’s developing at his four-person, Palo Alto, Ca.-based company. Our conversation has been lightly edited for length.
You left TripAdvisor — where you worked after selling it your startup in 2011 — expressly to start this new thing. What wasn’t TripAdvisor doing that you think you can?
TripAdvisor and many sites like it have a lot of information, so users have to do a lot of filtering and comparing and it becomes a very painful process, especially for trips that are complex or longer. The average consumer goes to 38 different sites, according to an Expedia study, and they spend more than 10 hours [researching these more involved trips].
The difference between this painful process and a nice process is one person who is unbiased and can help you.
We are talking, of course, of the long-maligned travel agent. But how do you convince people that these online agents are unbiased and not getting kickbacks for their recommendations? Wasn’t that part of the problem to begin with?