Tripping, a site that’s ending its beta test today, aims to connect travelers who want a richer experience than your average tourist trip with hosts who can help provide it.
Cofounder and chief executive Jen O’Neal is a big traveler herself, and she acknowledged that there are other services with a similar concept. The most well-known is a nonprofit site, couchsurfing.com, but O’Neal said there was nothing until Tripping that used modern Web technology and that provided a safe experience for connecting hosts and travelers.
The site includes features like the ability to match users based on the interests in their profiles, to add trips to users’ calendars, and to send email reminders and eventually directions once the trip is getting close. In addition to redesigning the site, it’s also rolling out new video features today, so that users can have real-time video chats before they meet in-person, or they can post videos for the purpose of cultural exchange, for example making a video where they cook a local food.
On the safety issue, travelers can rate and review their hosts, and vice versa. The ratings in particular are based around safety questions, and are anonymous and averaged out among multiple scores, so users can feel free to be honest. That gives users some sense of who they might be staying with, or who they might be inviting into their home. And if, despite those precautions, users still end up in a situation that they feel is unsafe, they can contact Tripping through an SOS email address, and the company will try to get them out of that situation by helping them locate a nearby hostel, calling a cab, or whatever else is needed. O’Neal said Tripping plans to add a phone hotline and other ways for users to reach out in emergencies.
There are a number of possible business models, O’Neal said, but the most obvious one involves partnerships to offer deals and advertisements from travel companies. Tripping has a rich set of data about users’ interests and plans, so it can deliver very customized ads.
O’Neal said she and her cofounder Nate Weisiger don’t necessarily need venture funding, because they were both early employees at StubHub, which was acquired by eBay, and they have been able to bootstrap their San Francisco startup. However, they are considering fundraising as a way to take advantage of the site’s current momentum, and grow the company more quickly.
The new Tripping site is live now and is being demonstrated in Startup Alley at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in New York.