Lifestyle

Peek unveils a treasure trove of travel experiences

Lao Tzu said “a good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.” This may be true, but in the event journeyers do have a destination in mind, they may want to have fun once they get there.

Peek.com, a site that helps travelers figure out what to do, exits private beta today.

Peek’s mission is to collect the best experiences in a location and present them to users, so they can peruse, gain inspiration, and book all in one place.

“What you do on travel holiday is what your memories are based on,” said founder Ruzwana Bashir. “People want to do cool stuff, and this is what will shape your entire experience. We want to be the number one player for experiences and disrupt the market so you don’t even need to buy a guidebook, you just can have this one resource to book and buy, and go have fun.”

The site currently only covers seven destinations in California and Hawaii, but it’s working to add destinations on the East Coast and in Florida and Mexico.

A Google study revealed that the average leisure traveler visits an average of 22 different websites, not to mention guidebooks and magazines. Peek puts the options together in a compelling, highly visual layout that offers a range of activities and information about the providers. If you have ever been stuck on a white water rafting trip with an incompetent and crude guide, you understand the importance of vetting.

Bashir was first inspired after planning a birthday trip to Turkey, where she painstakingly researched where to go and what to do, comparing provider options, making calls, and trying to book from afar. At the end of it all, she had a massive spreadsheet of information, and it became a go-to resource for anyone in her social network planning to go to Turkey. She saw that curation, trusted reviews, and insight are necessary as well.

Companies like Expedia and Viatour offer activity search and discover features, as well as booking capabilities, but don’t offer the same visual experience or level of curation.

Peek offers overviews of each destination, as well as a resources page, Top 10 Picks section, hidden gems, and aggregated reviews. It also has a “perfect day” feature, where a local expert shares their personal insights. And by local expert, I don’t mean the man who has been running the grocery store for a decade. Visitors to the site can see what constitutes the ideal afternoon for Timothy Hollingsworth, the Chef de Cuisine at the famed French Laundry, or Jack Dorsey’s favorite things to do in San Francisco.

Once the list of potential activities is scouted, the options for booking online are slim. Many providers, particularly in places off the beaten track, do not have functional websites, and buying tickets requires calling or showing up in person. According to a market research study of the travel marketplace, 80% of travelers conduct Internet research ahead of time, but only 20% of the transactions happen online. There is a huge disconnect, as commerce around travel experiences is still a primarily offline and fragmented industry.

Peek bridges this gap with an easy-to-use booking system and secure payments. Providers not only get the benefit of exposure to an engaged audience of consumers, but also of a beautifully designed website that positively displays their brand and increased sales from online transactions, which Peek keeps a portion of.

Bashir and her cofounder Oskar Bruening have collectively visited over 50 countries. Bashir is originally from the UK. She has an MBA from Harvard and  has worked in banking at Blackstone and Goldman Sachs, before entering the e-commerce space working at Gilt Groupe.

“I fell in love with commerce and the opportunities that come with compelling visual storytelling,” she said. “There is a change happening on the web and travel hasn’t caught up.”

Her cofounder graduated from MIT and has worked at VMware and Symantec. Their impressive bios brought them support from some of the biggest names in venture capital. The team raised seed funding of $1.4 million earlier this year from Jack Dorsey, Eric Schmidt, SV Angel, and Khosla Ventures. The startup currently has 10 employees, with plans to expand as Peek enters new markets. The team is based in San Francisco.