After turning your passion into a multimillion dollar startup and then selling that startup to a major newspaper company for over $30 million, what comes next? Traveling the world might be one option, as it was for PaidContent founded Rafat Ali, who spent two years doing just that. The jaunt gave Ali what he hopes will be his next great idea: Skift, a B2B travel aggregator that defines itself as “a news and information site for the travel industry.”
Skift launched in July 2012, with the goal of curating original journalism, travel-related data, and content gathered from across the web into a niche site geared toward both businesses and business travelers. Trade information would appeal to a B2B audience, consumer news would target business travelers, and travel-related data would, Ali hopes, appeal to all. Skift hopes to aggregate publicly available data, such as flight arrival and departure times, travel delays, and hotel listings. While this data would be available for free, the site would use the free data to drive travel-related services that businesses would have to pay extra to access.
While Skift’s launch has received positive media press, the ultimate role for this platform is unclear. Why would travel businesses switch from keeping up to data through existing channels and begin using Skift to access industry news? The site seems like an RSS feed of travel information, with value added–presumably–if businesses want to pay for premium services. With the services undefined as of launch, it’s difficult to forecast their appeal.
While the site has no ads at present, Ali hopes to place ads on Skift within six months and believes that the business travel audience is a prime market. Additional revenuemay come from content that business travelers and travel insiders will have to pay for, Ali hopes.
Will Skift Appeal?
While Ali terms the travel market as untapped, digitally, that’s not necessarily true. Travel guides, airlines, and third-party sites have data, reviews, and user forums. Consumers and businesses already navigate a bevy of websites to plan travel.
To add interest, the site may try for crossover content that appeals to consumers and travelers. In a PBS interview, Ali noted the company will build many features, some of which will work and some of which will not. By testing out content and trying to appeal to both business and consumer audiences, will Skift seem too scatterbrained?Skift could succeed by playing their cards right, but will it be with the B2B, B2C, or both audiences?
Whether businesses will come to embrace Skift remains to be seem, but the 17 angel investors that put $500,000 into the company see potential in this idea.