HotelTonight Makes First Acquisition, Bringing PrimaTable On To Build Backend

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Today last minute hotel booking app HotelTonight announced that it has acquired fellow San Francisco company PrimaTable, a members-only service that offers curated dining experiences at restaurants in the city, in a deal the terms of which were not disclosed. As part of the deal, PrimaTable’s team of three employees will all joining the HotelTonight team, including co-founder Jamie Davidson, HotelTonight’s new VP of Product, and co-founder Colin Zima, who’s joining as Data Scientist.

PrimaTable’s consumer-facing product offered diners curated dining events and exclusive reservations at restaurants, and gave restaurant owners the ability to manage their inventory of tables. While the company held a beta test with 20 restaurants in San Francisco earlier this year, the company’s service and website isn’t active, and HotelTonight founder Sam Shank said when he met the founders they were deciding whether to take funding to build it out or join a large tech company, and ultimately they decided to become part of the HotelTonight team.

Though it might seem counter-intuitive for the strictly travel-focused company to make an acquisition in the restaurant space, HotelTonight founder Sam Shank said the backend platform is really what set the company apart, and why he wanted to bring a restaurant-focused service on board to build out a hotel fulfillment platform. PrimaTable’s co-founders Zima and Davidson are ex-Google employees who worked on their display and search ranking algorithms, and with PrimaTable developed a platform that helped restaurants forecast demand and set pricing. HotelTonight will be integrating PrimaTable’s platform into its yield management system, though Shank couldn’t go into any specifics.

“We’ve invested in [our backend] a lot, a big majority of our code base is that backend infrastructure that nobody really sees, and that makes it so simple on the front end,” Shank said in an interview. He said they had been looking to hire a senior leader to build out the backend for a while, and he met Davidson at an event and found he understood the opportunities around perishable inventory and connecting mobile buyers with sellers who have excess capacity. “It was very serendipitous, in terms of us meeting them just as they were thinking about what they were doing next, and it being a perfect fit for HotelTonight.”

Shank has hinted in past interviews with BetaKit that ultimately he sees HotelTonight’s platform applying to any industry with perishable inventory, and said they’re well-positioned to expand if they wanted to thanks to the PrimaTable team’s experience in the restaurant industry. “What we’re not announcing is a move into the restaurant category,” Shank said. “In terms of the platform, it is agnostic in terms of what category it could be applied to. Right now it’s very much focused on hotels, but it could be other categories as well.”

HotelTonight announced that it raised $23 million in Series C funding earlier this summer, and debuted new versions of its suite of iOS and Android apps in September. The apps have been downloaded over three million times since launching in January 2011, and are now available in over 60 cities around the world.

While in one sense this is an “acq-hire” focused on bringing PrimaTable’s talent on board, it’s just as much about the company’s technology as it is about their team. With an eye to building out the most efficient and by extension profitable perishable inventory management system, Shank and his now-expanded team may be focusing on hotels for now, but it’s likely only a matter of time before they cater to restaurants and other last-minute-booking opportunities.

Erin Bury

Erin Bury

Erin has covered startups and technology for over three years in publications including Sprouter Weekly, The Globe and Mail, Business Insider, Mashable, and VentureBeat. She also writes a regular startup column for the Financial Post, and is a technology expert on CTV News Channel. Before BetaKit Erin worked as Director of Content & Communications at Sprouter from its launch in 2009 until its acquisition by Postmedia Network Inc. She was recently named one of Marketing Magazine's 30 Under 30 in 2012.

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