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Tony Wright

Over the years, Seattle entrepreneur Tony Wright has learned a few things about what he likes and doesn’t like about startup companies. And what it boils down to is something he terms “give-a-fuckness” — or in other (more PG) words something that really matters.

“I get excited by software that I’m going to use, that’s going to make people happy, and that’s going to make the world (in some small way) a better place,” notes Wright in introducing his latest startup company.

Known as Tomo and built with colleague Montana Low, Wright concedes that the latest venture is one of the bigger ideas he’s tackled.

The concept, as Wright explains it, is to create powerful mobile applications that help “on-the-ground” travelers get the information they need at their fingertips.

Describing himself as a “voracious traveler” — you may recall this Costa Rican getaway from last year —  Wright says that many online travel companies have focused on the “holy trinity of pre-trip decisions” around airfare, hotels, and rental cars.

“The internet actually sucks for helping you with decisions you have to make while on your trip– largely because you don’t have the internet with you,” notes Wright in a blog post, adding that a $20 Lonely Planet guidebook is “probably the worst form factor I could imagine for what is largely a curated catalog and a series of maps.”

So, enter Tomo. Essentially, Tomo Guides are mobile apps personalized for individual travelers.

There are already some 800-pound gorillas in the online travel content space, namely TripAdvisor which just spun off from Expedia (in an effort to become more nimble).

Wright tells GeekWire that TripAdvisor does have a solid mobile offering, but the founder of RescueTime, Jobby and CubeDuel noted that it is more of a reflection of the overall Web site and largely focused on the pre-trip activities. He also said that people are growing increasingly suspicious of user-generated content.

“We’re aiming for a heavily curated experience strictly for your in-trip experience,” he said.

Wright said the app — which will launch on the iPhone initially — will be free for users. A launch date is set for next month.

“Paid apps are a suckers bet if you want to build a big company (strange but true),” said Wright, adding that he believes that is “only going to get more true.”

Wright also sees huge opportunities for personalization.

Trover's mobile app

“If you’re a backpacker, why would you ever see the Four Seasons in an app or on a web site?  Or if you’re a retired senior, why would you see highly rated all-night hip-hop dance clubs?  Whether you’re putting your trust in TripAdvisor or a Lonely Planet guide, 95 percent of the content there is a bad fit,” he said.

There are certainly other mobile startups that see opportunity in travel, including Seattle-based Trover (a play on the word explorer). Launched in July with the support of former Zillow and Expedia CEO Rich Barton, Trover developed from a selfish need to have “a personal guide to the world” that included recommendations from friends and other travelers, Barton said.

Could Trover and Tomo intersect — or collide — on their new quests?

We’ll have to wait and say

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