William Shatner, the Priceline spokesperson best known for his timeless role as the sexy/fearless/fearlessly sexy Captain Kirk in the original Star Trek, recently joined Reddit. And, as happens with many Reddit newbies, he has been immediately sucked in, perhaps to the point of obsession. In fact, dear Mr. Shatner appears to be spending a not insignificant amount of his precious time arguing with people on Reddit. Stars: they’re just like us!
Kayak, your favorite travel site, which easily serves up the cheapest flight and hotel prices across the web, has been acquired by fellow travel site Priceline, also known as “that thing William Shatner did after Star Trek.” According to a press release published by Skift, the two have entered into a definitive agreement for Priceline to acquire Kayak for $1.8 billion.
In Connecticut in 1997, Jay Walker, inventor, created the idea for a “demand collection system,” which is how he describes the mechanism behind Priceline.com. Priceline, of course, lets customers name their own price and other conditions, input their credit cards and agree to rent a hotel, flight, car or whatever, typically sight unseen.
At the time, the New York Times called Priceline a “reverse auction,” a term that has stuck around long enough to work its way into the consciousness of moderator and adjunct professor Aaron Cohen, who made the mistake of employing it during an interview on Tuesday night at NYU for a series called Inside the Internet Garage produced by NYU Steinhardt.
Priceline is not a reverse auction, emphasized Mr. Walker—a slight, grey-haired man with dark eyebrows and a sense of righteousness—before an audience of students. “Saul Hansell, who was the journalist for the New York Times, was lazy and stupid,” he declared, “and I told him so numerous times.”
The quibble was the beginning of an at-times contentious look back at the history of Priceline, now one of the most valuable Internet companies based in New York with a market cap of $37.21 billion, and whether Mr. Walker’s numerous lawsuits over patent infringement constitute a tax on innovation.
Groupon has fallen hard since it was the “fastest-growing company in the world” with a valuation of $25 billion, thanks to revelations of accounting discrepancies, revenue numbers, payouts to early investors and a class action lawsuit by employees. Groupon already looks overvalued at its current $10 billion valuation, says Henry Blodget, who estimates a more appropriate valuation would be in the $7.5 billion range in a post titled, “I Wouldn’t Touch Groupon’s Stock At The IPO Price With A 50-Foot Pole.”
Bummerzone for Andrew Mason. But there may be some Groupon backlash backlash. “But just for the sake of symmetry, here’s a simple bull case for Groupon, and for how it could get its really high revenue growth back,” writes the highly-regarded Reuters finance blogger Felix Salmon this morning.
Ever since Jay Walker founded Walker Digital in 1994, the company has made its fortune by spinning ideas like Priceline out into companies. But in a profile today, the Wall Street Journal reports that Mr. Walker’s new money-making strategy seems to be filing lawsuits.
Last year, the Stamford, Connecticut-based company put its patent portfolio up for auction. But although a bid was made for $135 million for ideas like “managing identities and connecting with friends online” (circa 1996) it didn’t meet Mr. Walker’s minimum.
So instead, he resorted to teaming up with IP Navigation Group, which describes itself as a “patent monetization” firm. As FOSS Patents recently pointed out, others describe the IP Navigation Group and its affiliates a little differently. Law.com, for example, says owner Erich Spangenberg runs one of the “largest, and most litigious, patent-holding companies” and recommends a “sue first, ask questions later” approach.