Photo: Dan Frommer
Kayak filed for an IPO today, the latest milestone for the hugely successful travel search engine.Here’s the most important lesson we’ve learned from Kayak over the years: It doesn’t necessarily matter if you’re the first, fourth, or tenth to an idea. Execution matters more: If you do it WAY better than everyone else, in a way that’s actually helpful to your customers, you can win.
What Kayak did better than everyone else was deliver travel search results CLEAN and FAST, a concept that its competitors apparently could not grasp.
Kayak was not the first site to search multiple airlines or to let you filter your search results. But it used new technology like AJAX to do it fast and elegantly.
It was a breakthrough in quality and user experience. And for that reason, the second we found Kayak, it became the ONLY travel search engine we used.
Same thing for Google Maps versus MapQuest and Yahoo Maps. And the iPhone versus the Palm Treo and Windows Mobile. And Facebook versus Friendster and MySpace. And Google for search.
They weren’t the first — far from it — but they were far superior.
This isn’t to say you WILL win if you do something the best. Or that being first to an idea doesn’t create huge market advantages.
But you shouldn’t be afraid to try to improve on an old idea.
Kayak wasn’t, and now it’s going public.