Sam Shank always had a penchant for plotting his travels on a map of the world.

“I always thought it was a really nice metaphor for an individual’s personality and the places they’ve been,” he said.

Shank, a veteran of the Internet industry, was just finishing up his MBA at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management when he dreamed up an idea to create a travel Web site offering just such a personal touch.

He returned to the familiar ground of the Bay Area, where he had worked at such companies as Excite, CNET and NexTag during the 1990s. In July 2004, was launched at its San Francisco headquarters. Diving into the competitive space of online travel, the new Web site found a niche by offering personalized hotel reviews and ratings. Users, who are identified by their age, gender and travel budget, are invited to offer their frank appraisal of hotel stays.

Would-be travelers can use the reviews to make informed decisions, Shank said.

“You can filter what is relevant to you,” he said. “If I’m a 30-year-old male leisure traveler with an economy budget, I can say ‘show me reviews by people like that.’”

Get the full story at The San Francisco Examiner