Image: Triposo

Smart travel guide Triposo, founded last year by ex-Googlers Douwe Osinga and Jon Tirsen, raised a snappy $3.5 out of a potential $5.3 million in a Series A round this week. Somewhat conceptually indebted to Google, the app is still an exciting entrant — and one that’s just starting to gain wider attention.

Triposo crawls online sources as diverse as Wikitravel, Open Street Maps, and Flickr for data about travel and destinations. Then it sifts through all that information during a grueling parsing process, using proprietary algorithms look for patterns and to organize it into destinations and points of interest. Importantly, it also ranks the relevance of destinations, a process helped by looking at exif data from travel photos.

In some ways, the result is a little anticlimactic. Many travel pages are culled primarily from Wikipedia, and top destination lists for well-known cities contain no surprises. In a sense, though, that seems to be the goal of the project: to let users give some measure of control back to a travel guide in order to focus on experiencing a destination rather than micromanaging their own trip.

One of the most compelling aspects of the project is actually one of its simplest: All map and travel data is included in the app, so travelers don’t have to worry about their data use, finding reception or overage charges.

A factor that may be driving interest is the Google-like spirit of tangential innovation on the team, which is distributed geographically, but meet up every three months for a “Jamboree.” A Labs section of the site hosts a number of experimental works-in-progress that, even though practical uses might be far-fetched at this moment, show that the project is not sitting on its laurels.

A cuisine guessing algorithm, for example, takes a stab at where the menu originated for a given restaurant by analyzing its name. And an unsettling, vaguely psychedelic map projection tool lets the user see what a world map would look like with any center of Mercator projection (“It doesn’t always seem to quite work, but I am fed up with the math,” reads the current documentation.).

Some of that work could show up in an expected major overhaul to the Triposo app that could be released as soon as August — another factor the founders may be using to court investors.

A potential challenge to the startup could actually come from the Google mothership, which has emphasized stepped up efforts on location-based, contextual and social map efforts in the upcoming Android release. Triposo was probably the last thing on Google’s mind during that development push, though, which was aimed to retain dominance in online mapping while competitors Apple and Amazon stomp into the market as well.

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