from the May 2008 issue

Microsoft buys Israeli-founded travel website

Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) acquired US-based online travel website Farecast for $115 million. The company was founded by Prof. Oren Etzioni, a lecturer in computer science at the University of Washington in Seattle, and a serial entrepreneur.

Prof. Etzioni says the deal was agreed upon almost two weeks ago. He adds that the talks had lasted three months, with Microsoft beating another prominent competitor. I can't say who, he adds, somewhat apologetically, but you may assume that the company in question is a leading player in the online travel booking sector.

Farecast, says Etzioni, has already been integrated into the travel services section on the MSN portal, and there are those who feel that the technology could also be applied in other services. Etzioni himself, however, will no longer be involved in the company's activity. Microsoft bought the company, the reputation, and the brand, but not me, he says. He also refuses to be drawn on the size of his holdings in Farecast and the profit he made from the sale. Farecast, formerly called Hamlet, has raised $20 million to date. The company's site predicts which airlines offer the cheapest tickets and when they are expected to be offered, and also operates a search engine to find flights. This was recently been expanded to include hotel rooms.

Reprinted from the Israel High-Tech & Investment Report May 2008

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