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TripIt finds buyer, moves up-market

Handy traveler's helper app--never a standalone business--finds a good fit in its buyer, business travel and expense management firm Concur.

TripIt, the little traveler's help app that launched in the fall of 2007, is finally getting acquired. Business travel and expense management firm Concur (Nasdaq: CNQR) is putting up $120 million for the start-up.

In June 2008, I said that Tripit was clearly an acquisition play, not a long-term business. I did get my timing wrong, though: I thought they'd be acquired within the year.

The mobile TripIt apps puts all your travel data together for you, and watches your itinerary for changes. TripIt

I talked with TripIt co-founder Greg Brockway and Concur President Rajeev Singh today about the deal, and the prospects for the company. They want to have their businesses meet in the middle of the travel market, the "unmanaged business travel market" that exists between leisure travel and the big corporate travel business. TripIt, which started as a tool for individual business travelers, has been layering in more business functions, including a way for small-business "travel arrangers" to coordinate plans for multiple workers. Concur has traditionally been in the medium- and large-business travel expense-reporting space, but has lately been adding tools to gather travel expenses from small-business employees to help their companies track expenses and reimburse workers.

Look for the new Concur-owned TripIt to get more analysis and expense reporting tools. Existing individual users or Tripit's free services won't see a change, Brockway told me, and the free service won't go away. Paid users will get more services and features.

Concur seems like a good match for TripIt. Both companies have been making money from travel even as direct travel products and services themselves are being driven toward lower margins thanks to the transparency that the Internet forces on them. Meanwhile, travel booking services like Orbitz are facing a new threat: airlines, like Southwest historically, and possibly American Airlines in the future, are re-evaluating whether they want to sell their tickets on airfare aggregation sites. This could greatly upset almost every online travel service--but not personal data or expense aggregators like TripIt or Concur.

So it appears to be a good acquisition. The one thing I heard that I do take issue with: Brockway says that under Concur's umbrella TripIt will be able to innovate and iterate its services more quickly. I hope he's right, but I am not familiar with any business where getting acquired made it more nimble.