STAMFORD, Conn. -- Priceline.com here was created in a laboratory well before the Internet became king.
ory Walker Digital, whose chairman is Priceline's founder and vice chairman Jay S. Walker. The service enables consumers to name prices for airline tickets, hotel rooms, mortgages and now groceries.
Priceline's creation relied on a concentrated thought process involving everyone from technology experts to executives with business experience in the marketplace. "If you sat around and spent all day thinking about it and had a team of 75 people, you'd probably think about a lot of it, too," Walker quipped. "It was a question of focused discipline."
Priceline's grocery service, a privately held licensee called WebHouse Club, is also accessible on Priceline's Web site. It was launched last November in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, and plans to make its way across the United States by this summer. It is led by executives with retailing experience, including Jonathan Otto, chairman and CEO, who founded Rock Bottom Stores, and Robert K. Voss, executive vice president of merchandising and manufacturers, who held top positions at Sam's Club, Staples and Dollar General. WebHouse's president is Steve Mott, whose background is in e-commerce.
The privately held Webhouse was created with a very specific financial relationship to Priceline, which is public. It has separate investors and its revenue figures are not consolidated into those of Priceline. The public company has warrants to purchase a majority of shares of the private firm if it chooses.
Priceline is already gaining from its grocery arrangement. About 90% of the early WebHouse members were new to the Priceline site. "So they come for diapers and also go for airline tickets and other services," Walker said.