Room 77 Helps Travelers Pick the Best Hotel Rooms—And Get Virtual Peek Out the Windows

2/24/11Follow @wroush

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reserve them (and probably earn a sales commission in the process). Certain hotels are interested in the feature already, Fliess says, but the company wants to get as many properties on board as possible before offering it.

But for now, Room 77 is “just about getting information into the hands of consumers,” says Fliess. “We feel like step one is creating this transparency and empowerment for consumers, and we think that is going to get the demand going [for more options]. Hotels are starting to understand that their best customers care about this, and that if they can get their best customers into the right rooms, that drives greater guest satisfaction and loyalty and can lead to incremental revenue.”

Room 77 has 20 employees, half of them engineers, including several from Google and Facebook. The whole business development staff comes from the online travel industry, including Fliess, who was previously founder of a social travel planning site called Travelmuse, which acquired last fall by New York-based Travel Ad Network. Fliess says the startup has raised about $3 million in capital last April from Sutter Hill Ventures, PAR Capital Management, and a posse of individual travel and Internet veterans including Expedia founder Rich Barton, former Farecast CEO Hugh Crean, Bing.com travel industry director Krista Pappas, and Zillow co-founder Lloyd Frinka.

The 500 hotels included in Room 77′s searchable index at today’s launch span 15 North American cities—including New York, Chicago, Las Vegas, San Francisco, and Seattle—as well as London. And it’s adding more cities all the time; Fliess says the goal is to index the majority of the three- to five-star hotels in each city before adding that city to the index.

It would greatly surprise me if Room 77 stayed independent for more than 12 months—my bet is that a travel information company like Newton, MA-based TripAdvisor will snap it up swiftly. It’s not just that Room 77 is applying the mapping idea from TripAdvisor’s SeatGuru site to hotel rooms (right down to the red, yellow, and green squares). It’s that helping travelers identify the best hotels for their trips is the very core of TripAdvisor’s business—and Room 77′s database could help the company go to the next level, allowing users to select (and perhaps even review) individual rooms.

On top of that, the online travel industry is consolidating fast, with a few big travel-IT companies like TripAdvisor and Concur busily rolling up smaller ones—last month Concur bought San Francisco-based TripIt, and earlier this month TripAdvisor bought Palo Alto, CA-based EveryTrail. So it wouldn’t be a big surprise to see Room 77 checking in at a bigger company sometime soon.

[Update 2/25/11: Yesterday Room 77 won the "Best Overall" prize in the 1.0 competition at San Francisco's Launch conference.]

Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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