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March 14, 2009

Kayak.com Leading The Travel Search Engine Market

Founded in 2004, Kayak.com is a travel search engine that can search travel information and refer travelers travelers to online travel and booking agencies. Kayak can search more than 140 different sites at the same time. The company’s website provides the user with easy information and allows the user to reserve hotels, book flights and cruises, or rent a car. The company employs 75 people and is based in Norwalk, Connecticut. Unlike a conventional online travel agency, such as Orbitz or Expedia, which sells the hotel reservations or plane tickets directly, Kayak provides the user with travel information. Kayak searches hundreds of travel goods and allows the user to make the choice on which site to book the right flight or hotel. Kayak gets its revenues from advertisers and referral fees from these 140+ sites.

Kayak’s management team is lead by Steve Hafner, who is the company’s CEO and cofounder. As CEO, Mr. Hafner is the driving force of the company’s strategy and often studies the growth charts and gives detailed feed back of the company’s products. In 1999, Mr. Hafner co-founded Orbitz and lead their business development. Before leaving Orbitz, Mr. Hafner was Orbitz’s CEO. Before founding Orbitz, Mr. Hafner worked as strategy consultant for Boston Consulting Group. Mr. Hafner began his career at Marketing Corporation of America. Mr. Hafner has a BA in Economics at Dartmouth University and an MBA at the Kellogg School of Northwestern University.

Kayak’s other cofounder is Paul English and is also the company’s CTO. Mr. English is also a part-time chief technologist for the Division of Social Medicine at the Brigham and Woman’s Hospital in Boston and works together with Harvard University on new initiatives for global health delivery. Before founding Kayak, Mr. English was an EIR at Greylock where he worked on anti-spyware and anti-spam software.

On January 12, 2006, Kayak was named the “Best of the Web” by BusinessWeek Magazine and US News and World Report. While Expedia and Travelocity appeared first, then Orbitz, Kayak is effective as a travel search engine that helps users find sites where they can book flights or reserve hotels.

In 2008, Kayak was featured on Forbes.com as a travel site that gets personal. According to Forbes.com, “Wanna-be-travelers” are always looking for the good summer vacation or in these hard economic times a family might be looking for the budget summer getaway. The article further states that Kayak is a versatile travel search engine that has come out of nowhere and the number of its searches has doubled over 33 million.

Kayak’s venture capital investors are General Catalyst, Sequoia Capital, and Accel Partners and in 2005, Kayak has raised $1.5 million from those respected vc firms. The company’s cofounder and CEO, Mr. Hafner hopes that Kayak will repeat the financial history of Orbitz. In December of 2007, Kayak merged together with SideStep.com and secured $169 million in financing round. Along with this merger, investment partner Michael Moritz also joined Kayak’s board of directors.

Kayak, however, does have many competitors. One of Kayak’s major competitors is UpTake, which is a privately owned travel company that builds a semantic search that provides appropriate leisure and business travel results. The company was founded in 2006 and is based out of Palo Alto, California.

Another competitor of Kayak is Yapta, which is a browser bookmarklet (JavaScript program that stored as a URL within a bookmark) that is used to track the fares on upcoming flights. After bookmarking a number of different flights from different sites, the user can go back to Yapta to compare the fares to each other. Yapta was founded in May of 2006 and is a privately owned company.

On the whole, the future looks bright for Kayak