Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

Travel Search Gets Granular With Room 77

If you’re really serious about travel, you don’t just want the best hotel, you also want the best hotel room. A newly-launched start-up called Room 77 is focusing on exactly that detail. And this is not just some user-generated review play; among other factors, the company is ranking hotel rooms by parsing Google Earth data with latitude, longitude and altitude parameters to simulate actual room views.

Users can query Room 77 in advance to request a room, and they can also use the company’s iPhone app to make quick decisions about which room to take when offered at the front desk. The company has results for 2,500 three-star and above hotels in North America and the UK, including room category, square footage, bed type and elevator proximity.

The company gets its room map data through direct relationships with hotels (it’s working on a larger deal with Starwood), sending staffers to examine hotels themselves, and from users taking pictures of the floorplan maps on the back of their room doors.

You see a lot of people trying to innovate around travel search and discovery these days by improving user experience, social features and the like. To Room 77’s credit, it’s breaking off a novel aspect of travel, though I wonder how many people care enough to download an app to get the best room.

The Sunnyvale, Calif company is run and funded by all sorts of online travel nuts. Founder and chairman Brad Gerstner of Altimeter Capital sold two travel start-ups and is on the board of Orbitz. VP Engineering Calvin Yang worked on image search at Google and then founded a travel start-up called OpTrip that’s now part of Room 77. GM and VP Product Kevin Fliess was co-founder and CEO of TravelMuse.

Room 77 was founded in 2009 and raised $3 million last year. Here’s the list of backers from the press release: “Rich Barton (founder of Expedia and Zillow), Erik Blachford (former president and CEO of IAC Travel), Bob Pittman (founder of MTV), and Hugh Crean (former president and CEO of Farecast), among others. Other investors include Par Capital Management, an early investor in ITA, Farecast, and Orbitz; Sutter Hill Ventures, which also invested in Farecast; and Felicis Ventures.”

Update: Room 77 was the judges’ pick of the 10 companies presenting at the Launch conference in San Francisco on Thursday morning. (And AllThingsD‘s Kara Swisher was one of the judges.)