HotelTonight Makes an Acquisition as Others Launch Last-Minute Booking Apps

HotelTonight, which enables people to find last-minute hotel reservations on the phone, has acquired PrimaTable, a company that has developed similar tools for the restaurant industry.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Sam Shank, HotelTonight’s CEO, said what interested him about the company was the team and the technology. He added that HotelTonight does not have immediate plans to get into the restaurant business. At least, not initially. “The platform that we’ve built is category agnostic,” he said.

The company’s first acquisition, though small, comes at a time when other large travel agencies are getting into the last-minute booking space by launching competing standalone hotel apps., Priceline, Expedia, Orbitz and other large players have launched their own mobile applications that present special offers and deals to those booking rooms on the same day of travel.

Shank said he’s not particularly concerned about all the competition crowding the space, because his company has a lot of technology running behind the scenes that makes it all work. He said its tools help hotels determine how to price their rooms in order to fill their vacancies at the last minute. He’s particularly interested in PrimaTable’s forecasting and pricing technology. Three of the company’s employees will be joining HotelTonight, including the founders.

“Our platform runs a lot more like Google AdWords than Groupon, so our sales team isn’t calling hotels everyday. They are signing up new hotels and getting feedback on how to make tools better, but they aren’t dealing with daily inventory — that’s entered by the hotel,” he said.

The hotels that offer the lowest-priced rooms are the ones that get a chance to fill up three of the six slots that HotelTonight offers every day in each market — it does not offer hundreds of selections, like many of the competing apps, which often just copy their online experiences.

Since launching in January 2011, HotelTonight has been downloaded more than three million times — and it has no online presence. It is available in more than 60 destinations in the U.S., U.K. and Canada. It has 75 employees.

PrimaTable co-founder and CEO Jamie Davidson will become HotelTonight’s VP of Product. Before launching PrimaTable in 2012, Davidson worked at Google as a quantitative expert focused on optimizing the company’s display algorithm. PrimaTable co-founder Colin Zima will join as HotelTonight’s data scientist. Previously, Zima worked on Google’s search-ranking algorithms.

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