Microsoft-backed PlanetEye wants to be your travel gateway

The world may not need yet another travel site, but with financial and technological backing from Microsoft, plus a very sleek user interface, a start-up called PlanetEye has a chance to stand out.

The company uses licensed technology from Microsoft Research to power its interface, creating a cool visual experience where maps are populated by images in small bubbles to highlight noteworthy locations. (See screenshot below.)

Today, PlanetEye is formally launching the site and unveiling one of its most promising features, the Travel Pack. Basically, whenever a PlanetEye user finds an interesting attraction, hotel, restaurant or other location, they can “clip” them, saving them into a Travel Pack. That way, users can easily look all the different spots they’ve found while planning their trip and can share their Travel Packs with friends and other PlanetEye users. The site will also offer expert-created Travel Packs that users can build on.

PlanetEye has made a number of deals with other sites, so that when users find something cool, they can immediately act on it, be it buying plane tickets and making hotel reservations through Travelocity, getting restaraunt reservations through OpenTable or even making an appointment at a spa through WaySpa.

With a neat interface and a smart approach to partnerships, PlanetEye could become the first site travelers visit, a user-friendly gateway to many related services available online. But are good ideas enough? There are so many competing sites out there — in just the last few months we’ve covered TravelMuse, NileGuide, TripSay and more.

Chief executive Butch Langlois acknowledges that in this space, it’s going to take a serious marketing push to get on people’s radar. This announcement is the first part of that push, and Langlois says he plans to raise more venture funding soon to build up a marketing warchest.

The Tortonto-based startup has already raised $5 million from JL Albright Venture Partners, GrowthWorks and Microsoft.