Today, the hotel booking giant, a subsidiary of the Priceline Group, launched a new app called Booking Now, which lets travelers find last-minute hotel deals anywhere in the world and book them with a single click. In doing so, Booking.com is going head to head with startups like HotelTonight, which has been an early leader in this mobile-first, last-minute booking space, and has raised more than $80 million since it was founded in 2010.
But while HotelTonight may be one of Silicon Valley’s darlings, Booking.com is a mainstream, global juggernaut. With its network of 585,000 hotels all over the world—yes, even in Kathmandu—and millions of customers, it seems poised to trounce the smaller competitors that have, so far, ruled this market. And that could serve as a cautionary tale for other startups.
Some of today’s most prized startups are the ones that have used mobile technology to make stodgy industries run more seamlessly. Uber did it to the taxi industry, by allowing users to hail a ride with the click of a button. Tinder did it to the online dating industry, cutting out lengthy personality tests and letting users find matches with a single swipe. In both of these cases, the strategy worked, resulting in businesses that are even more valuable than the entire industries they infiltrated. But sometimes that strategy can backfire.