Right before I left Hipmunk, I silently ‘launched’ a beta product. It’s something I wanted to use and honestly, no one else really cared about it. Hipmunk wasn’t focused on consumer products after being acquired by Concur (who were acquired by SAP). Business travel was the focus.
I joined Hipmunk to work on cool fun stuff like chatbots and voice skills. And I also joined because I wanted to build products for consumers, for people like me. While Hipmunk wasn’t building for consumers, our sister company TripIt, acquired by Concur a few years prior, still was holding on a little bit.
During a hack week, our little team built an Alexa and Google Assistant Skill for TripIt — allowing travelers to get updated information about their upcoming flight. It’s something so obvious to do. Why wouldn’t you want this if you had a smart speaker? And we had access to useful information. All we needed was a little support to make the API endpoints work.
This was a fanciful flighty kind of product — the best kind.
After many rounds of back and forth, scrounging for time and resources and development on our own, the product was ready… except it wasn’t. We still had to run the gauntlet of marketing and QA and exec reviews — really the death knell for interesting products at large corporations. Honestly, this is the kind of thing that can be built in a few weeks max, and here, so close to being done after months of red tape, I was a big delirious.
So I just turned it on — and no one really noticed. What better way to test the kinks then to do it live? A few weeks after I left, I got a text:
“BTW [they] took it down. They were seriously unhappy.”
“Yikes. Nothing happened?”
“No new people registered and I had to cut it off in the middle of testing.”
“[Eng Manager] freaked out. Called for air support.”
“I was wondering when they’d figure it out.”
“Told me he’s got half of the execs chasing him to take it down. We blamed you. :)”
With a little bit of drama and handwringing, the team managed to pull it together and pushed through TripIt for Voice Assistants a few months later. And I’m incredibly proud and happy to have this in the world. It isn’t a world-changing product… just a nice, useful one. And I love that.
Here’s a demo video that our little team pulled together at my house. We used it to convince a few execs to hand wave it through.