Mobile travel app HotelTonight launched in 2010, way before every on-demand startup wanted to be “Uber for X” (because Uber itself hadn’t even left beta).
On the most recent episode of Re/code Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher, CEO Sam Shank explained that getting in early meant his startup had to carefully build relationships with hoteliers, some of whom had been burned by online coupon startups.
“They were like, ‘We don’t want another Groupon,'” Shank said.
Rather than offering broad discounts on all rooms in a hotel, HotelTonight is premised on offering last-minute discounts for rooms that hotels would not otherwise be able to fill. Shank said he expects the company to be profitable this year.
He argued that online user rating systems like his company’s have upended the historical competitive advantage of “big box chains” such as Marriott and Hilton, which promised predictable quality in the absence of any other information.
“They’re not authentic,” Shank said. “People are looking for more authentic experiences when they travel. On the far end is staying in somebody’s house. On the other end is staying at a great boutique hotel.”
Listen to or download the episode in the player above, or click here to subscribe to Re/code Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher on iTunes; you can also find Re/code Decode on TuneIn, Stitcher and Clammr.
Arik Hesseldahl will be in Kara’s chair next Monday to talk to Tanium CEO Orion Hindawi. On Thursday, don’t miss Re/code Media with Peter Kafka, our newest podcast. This week, Peter talks to Danielle Weisberg and Carly Zakin from theSkimm. Click here to subscribe to Re/code Media on iTunes.
You can hear Kara this Friday on Too Embarrassed to Ask, her podcast with Lauren Goode from The Verge. Click here to subscribe to Too Embarrassed to Ask on iTunes right now. And you should also check out Re/code Replay, an archive of audio content from our events and interviews by Kara Swisher, Walt Mossberg, Peter Kafka, Ina Fried and more. To subscribe to that, click right here.
You can follow @Recode on Twitter for the latest on upcoming guests.
If you like what we’re doing, please write a review on iTunes — and if you don’t, just tweet-strafe Kara. You can also suggest guests for the show on Twitter, and we’ll do our best to nab them for a Red Chair interview.
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.