Kayak.com announced today the completion of a $196 financing round, which they will use to complete a merger with SideStep Inc. and to pursue a more aggressive global expansion. With the merger of Kayak.com and SideStep.com, ‘the world’s first travel search site’, they will have created the world’s 5th largest travel brand.
Both Kayak and SideStep are meta travel sites, and search hundreds of other travel websites including airlines, hotels, and sites such as Orbitz.com. The overlap of users between Kayak and SideStep is just around 10%, according to Kayak.
Combined, Kayak and SideStep will be a powerful force. Together they have more monthly unique visitors than Priceline, every airline except Southwest, and every hotel and rental car brand. It is estimated that consumers will conduct more than 33 million searches on Kayak.com and its affiliates in January 2008, which double their 16 million searches in January 2007.
Kayak.com revealed that they intend to maintain the two separate brands, and will develop and promote each site independently. Additionally, key SideStep.com personnel will be joining Kayak.com’s team, and the merger will combine the best practices of each company. Users of both Kayak.com and SideStep.com will benefit as well, having access to more comprehensive rates and availability data, a larger selection of products and services, and an overall improved customer service experience.
Consumers visiting the two sites will not notice much of a difference just by looking at them. However, on the backend, by combining content and technology, they’ll be able to make SideStep’s interface faster, and Kayak will have access to SideStep travel guides, hotel reviews, and their downloadable toolbar. Users will also be able to make broader searches internationally due to the fact that the sites will combine travel partners. While Kayak and SideStep’s domestic roster of airlines and hotels are virtually identical, their partnerships abroad vary.
As a part of the financing and merger, Michael Moritz of Sequoia Capital will join Kayak’s Board of Directors. Other participants in the financing round include existing Kayak investors Accel Partners and General Catalyst Partners, as well as SideStep investors Norwest Venture Partners and Trident Capital. New investors include Lehman Brothers Venture Partners and Oak Investment Partners, and debt lenders Gold Hill Capital and Silicon Valley Bank.