When you’re planning a vacation and want to book a flight or hotel, you’ve got multiple sites like Expedia, Kayak or Orbitz that can help. But when you’re trying to figure out what to do on your trip, where do you go? Probably a million different places to a) research companies, b) compare prices and c) book a tour or lesson — that is, if the business is even online.
Peek (not to be confused with the calendaring app of the same name) is trying to solve that problem with its one-stop-shop activity booking site. Co-founded by CEO Ruzwana Bashir and CTO Oskar Bruening, Peek helps you discover things to do in a city, from wine tours to skydiving to museum visits, and allows you to book tickets directly from the site.
Meanwhile, Peek gives participating companies an online presence and another way to bring in additional business. Though she doesn’t love the comparison, Bashir says the simplest way to think of Peek is as the OpenTable of activities booking.
At the Code Conference today, Bashir and Bruening demonstrated how it’s using mobile apps to further enhance the experience for both consumers and merchants. After launching the site in 2012, Bashir realized that Peek needed to go mobile because consumers wanted to be able to book things on the go once they’re at a location. And businesses needed a solution that could provide them with real-time information about bookings and allow them to accept customers on the fly.
“It’s really just about taking that functionality we’ve taken for granted with something like OpenTable and bringing it into this space,” Bashir said.
The company now offers two iOS apps to do just that. On the consumer side, there’s the Peek app, which starts off by asking you to take a quick personality quiz to determine your interests. Once complete, Peek will show you recommended activities close to your current location or you can select from one of the 17 cities where Peek provides services. Supported cities include London, Paris, New York, Las Vegas and O’ahu, and the company plans to add more locations next month, including Mexico.
The onstage demo went smoothly, pegging Recode’s Kara Swisher as an “explorer” (accurate) and booking her for a snorkeling trip.
You can also search for activities by different themes, such as “good for kids,” “under $50″ and “romantic.” Another section, called “Perfect Days,” gives you recommendations from celebrities and other influencers. Each activity page provides you with images, a description, details, availability, reviews and links for direct booking.
Peek employs a team of travel experts to research and find the best activities for each location. But since it’s a curated site, it limits your choices to just one or two operators, occasionally three, for each specific activity. Bashir says this is to make it easier for people to find things to do without being overwhelmed with choices. But for those, like me, who prefer to comparison shop, this might be a downside.
On the business side, the Peek Professional app provides businesses with the back-end tools to take payments at the point of sale and see new bookings as they come in. This is particularly important, Bashir said, for “offline businesses” like zipline operators, who are out in the field, or companies that need to keep track of inventory, like the number of rental bikes or surfboards available. Also, if the activity requires signing liability waivers, that can also be handled by the app.
Peek takes a small commission for each booking, but says Peek customers do not pay any more for their experience.
Peek isn’t the only company in the activities booking business. Other startups like Viator and Trippy offer similar services, but Bashir says what distinguishes Peek from its competitors is the personalized recommendations, booking functionality and real-time availability, among other things.
Bashir started Peek after her own frustrating experience trying to plan a weekend trip to Istanbul. In November, the company raised $5 million in series A funding from Eric Schmidt, Jack Dorsey, Todd Kimmel of Montage Ventures, Brad Gerstner of Altimeter Capital and StubHub co-founder and former CEO Jeff Fluhr, among others.
Additional reporting by James Temple.
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