Paul English’s Lola Envisions Easy Travel Powered By Mobile & Humans
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250 by the end of next year, English said. The company recently took over the third floor of its current building to grab more room for expansion, and it will open a small office in a New York City co-working space for marketing, he said.
Lola is talking with investors about raising a funding round, and it’s also tapping into the $20 million that Kayak investors General Catalyst Partners and Accel put into the Blade incubator in early 2014. Blade invested in seven startups, but most of the money remains in the bank, English said.
The seed of Lola was planted in the spring, English said, when Blade board member Youngme Moon remarked that the incubator’s team was so strong, why not build a company themselves? Over the summer, Blade’s nine employees experimented with three ideas, landing on the one that became Lola. (The name is a portmanteau that smashes together the words longitude and latitude, English said.)
The company’s original concept was a virtual “personal secretary for everyone,” similar to Zirtual, but in mobile app form, English said. Eventually, General Catalyst managing director Joel Cutler suggested that Blade apply that idea to the travel industry. That was around July, when English’s noncompete agreement with Kayak expired, he said. “I loved it. I said, ‘why didn’t I think of that?’”
English said he wasn’t contemplating starting another travel company when he left Kayak at the end of 2013. “I wanted to take a break,” he said, which has allowed him to spend more time on things like lecturing at MIT. “The expectations would be so high” for another travel startup, he added.
Indeed, they already are, with English among those fanning the flames. He told the Boston Business Journal in July that he thinks Lola could be bigger than Kayak.