Hopper Doubles Its Funding And Sets Sights On The Global Stage

Airport deapature board showing Asian destinations

Airport deapature board showing Asian destinationsDavid Woolfall

Hopper, the Montreal-based flight and hotel booking app, announced this morning that it secured $100 million in Series D funding led by Canadian public investment group OMERS Ventures. It’s a significant milestone for the growing startup, more than doubling previous investment (now at a total of $184 million) and setting the stage for what CEO and founder Frederic Lalonde promises to be a year of rapid expansion. On the books: doubling the 200-person staff, crossing $1 billion in annual sales, increasing the number of partner hotels to upwards of 100,000, and pushing into smaller, regional markets globally.

Lalonde won’t divulge Hopper’s valuation, but puts it around $1 billion Canadian—roughly $780 million USD. “A narwhal,” he jokes. A Canadian unicorn.

The app, which is chiefly used to book flights for leisure, operates on a central assumption about customers: “Most people don’t know exactly what they want,” says Lalonde. “They might say they want to go to Rome, but they really mean they want to go to Italy. They don’t know Milan is $400 cheaper.” If you want to travel and have an open mind, Hopper will help with the when and where.

With algorithms scanning on average 10 to 15 billion price points a day, users are notified of deals via push notifications. Price data is just one piece of the puzzle, the rest come from analyzing user behavior. Hopper is mobile-exclusive and makes use of travelers’ often copious time in-app to compile vast amounts of data. From there, the app can suggest flights that users might not even know they want, based on analysis of the database. These sales make up a full 25% of flights scheduled through the app, and are expected to grow in share.

“We are fundamentally a big data company that happens to be selling travel,” explains Lalonde.

Hopper’s plans for global expansion translate to more users, more data, and better recommendations for flights. Its dedication to mobile is expected to pay off as the app expands in developing economies where smartphones have become nearly ubiquitous. The challenge of scaling globally then isn’t accessing customers (Hopper has been available internationally since launch), but rather establishing a boots-on-the-ground presence with regional travel and lodging networks.

“If you’re missing the dominant low-cost carrier in a market like Mexico, you’re losing trust,” says Lalonde. “[Our] unique relationship with customers is built on trust. [They’re] giving us access to their lock screen at 3:00 a.m.”

The sort of growth Hopper has planned is a tall order. Lalonde prides the company and its investors on their long-term perspective and dedication to slow, meticulously planned growth, but they’ll have to balance those standards with a ticking clock.

He’s confident they can pull it off. “We’re trying to build a multinational company in a rapid time frame. We have some work to do to get to scale, but there’s going to be a magical tipping point.”

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