Today a new travel startup is launching its public beta, which will allow users to explore destinations, plan trips, and get travel recommendations from friends. I know what you’re thinking right now. Social travel? My heart’s been broken too many times. I don’t know if I can commit. But here’s the thing. Many smartphone users are already collecting good bars, restaurants, and photos of tourist sites on their travels through location-based services, which is useful for sharing with friends. Unlike other social travel startups that require you to create new content, Stockholm-based Tripbirds builds off of many people’s current habits.
“Where most [social travel startups] fail is getting critical mass because you need some content on the site to make it interesting.” says CEO Ted Valentin. “What makes us different is that we’re building Tripbirds on top of existing services as a travel layer — on top of Facebok and Foursquare and Instagram, and even more services in the future.”
Tripbirds then allows users to pack all this location-based information from across the web into trips where you can see all your friends location tagged photos and checkins. The premise is fairly simple, and is executed well enough to make travel recommendations an easy favor and not a chore.
So say you’re planning a trip to Berlin. You can see which of your friends have been there most recently, and then ask them for recommendations for things to do. They will be notified of your request by email and then on the Tripbirds site can quickly scroll through their list of check-ins to point out their favorite bars, restaurants, where they’ve taken instagram photos, and wherever else they recommend in Berlin.
After you receive this list of recommendations from your friends, you can then go though it and make a list of to-dos of all the things that look interesting to you. You can also see on a map all the places your friends have been in certain cities, allowing you to get a feel of the town and see what districts you should see.
Tripbirds also acts as an aggregator of all your friends’ location based content, which is kind of cool to follow. If you friend is in Hong Kong for example, you can see his Facebook, FourSquare, and Instagram information, which makes Tripbirds a nice service to all your location-based information, and adds value to those services by making your saved content useful again.
The site also has a nice, stylish design, which Valentin explains, “The things we’re doing are sort of avant garde, with this sort of mashing up of different services. But to balance that, we have this down to earth perspective. We don’t actually use Spotify in the office, we use vinyl. Travel has been something people have been doing for a long time, and we’re trying to get this feeling of when travel was more exciting in the past. Travel these days have all sorts of associations with Ryan Air, but we want to give more of this feeling of how travel was in the past.”
But as all social services go, with Tripbirds you need some friends with you before it’s useful. Christoffer Klang, who participated in the private beta says, “The site works best when you get roughly 10-15 friends to join the site. Then, it becomes fun as you can check out friends’ travel profiles and start to save travel tips and experiences from mates.”
For those of you first to join, the site has some hooks to get your friends to using the site. You’re able to see if your friends have been to Berlin, for example. But to see the hotels, restaurants, and other places they’ve checked in at, they need to register at Tripbirds for privacy reasons. The service makes it easy to get in touch and get them to register on the site.
Before taking Tripbirds out of beta, the company plans on adding more sources of location-tagged content in the near future– like Twitter and Flickr, and even more content that’s location tagged like Soundcloud, Foodspotting, Readmill, and whatever else Tripbirds can access. The company is also working on a mobile app that should make it easier to find locations on your to-dos.
On the business side of things, Tripbirds has almost exactly the same business model as TripAdvisor. When your friends give you hotel recommendations, you’re able to easily book rooms though an integration with Booking.com, and see nearby hotels.
For those unconvinced this startup might have legs, Tripbirds’ seed funding round late last year included enough names to signal something huge. The company was backed by VC firms Index Ventures, Passion Capital, and Creandum, as well as angel investors Andreas Ehn (ex CTO at Spotify, and co-founder of Wrapp), Eric Wahlforss and Alexander Ljung (Soundcloud founders) and Dave Morin (Path founder).
You can sign up at Tripbirds.com