Hipmunk Takes On Hotel Search

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color-code the hotels on its maps according to their relative cost. The most expensive hotels in a city relative to the average are in red, for example, while the cheapest are green and the average hotels are blue.

Finally, Goldstein says Hipmunk wants to increase users’ trust that the hotels they’re seeing are ranked according to some objective criteria. Kayak, to name one major industry player, offers a “featured sort” option for hotel search results where hotels can bid for the highest placement. “We think this is totally anti-consumer,” Goldstein says. “Our goal is not to list hotels by who is paying the most but instead by user reviews and amenities and price. The combination of those things, we think, makes for a more relevant and consumer-friendly ranking.”

Once you’ve found a hotel on Hipmunk’s maps that looks good, you can click through to another service such as HotelsCombined.com or DHR.com to make a room reservation. (Or, if you want even more granular information, you could head over to Room 77, the hotel search service introduced last week that uses Google Earth to show you the simulated views out the windows of specific rooms in each hotel.)

Hipmunk has grown from just two co-founders—Goldstein’s colleague Huffman was formerly CEO of Reddit, which he sold to Conde Nast in 2006—to a current staff of seven. In January the company picked up $4.2 million in a Series A financing round led by Ignition Partners and a posse of travel industry veterans, including former Expedia CEO Rich Barton, former Expedia CEO Eric Blachford, TravelPost co-founder Simon Breakwell, and Preview Travel founder Jim Hornthal. RealNetworks founder Rob Glaser also invested.

And what’s that “vice” criterion I mentioned earlier? I thought at first that it had to do with crime levels, but Goldstein says it’s a way of mapping a city according to the locations of strip clubs, adult video stores, casinos, and “stuff like that,” meaning, well, use your imagination. The company doesn’t specifically try to map red-light districts, Goldstein says, but “effectively, if you look at a city like Amsterdam, I think you will see a pretty high overlap.” Which, I guess, could give new meaning to the site’s ecstasy rating.

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Wade Roush is the producer and host of the podcast Soonish and a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @soonishpodcast

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