Hopper Tracks Down $50M, Goes All In on Flight-Booking App

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want the flight-booking process to be as simple and quick as pressing a few buttons on their smartphones. Hopper sends more than 20 million push notifications about flights to users each month, and 90 percent of its sales come directly from those alerts, according to the press release.

A lot of that activity is driven by millennials, who make up 52 percent of Hopper’s users, Lalonde said. “The shopping behaviors, the loyalty, the willingness to dedicate their experience to their phone is very, very different in this category,” he said.

But it’s not just younger generations.

“People everywhere around the world are abandoning the laptop as their primary means of transactions,” Lalonde said. “People are spending on average north of $1,600 a year on international travel in the app. There’s a willingness to make these big, aspirational, long-lead purchases on the phone that’s completely transforming travel, and in general, e-commerce.”

Hopper is part of a strong cluster of consumer travel tech companies in the Boston area. Kayak and TripAdvisor (NASDAQ: TRIP) are the big players locally, along with emerging startups like Lola, Freebird, and Fuzzy Compass.

Hopper currently employs 40 people at its two offices, and it plans to use the money to hire more than 80 people by the end of next year, according to a press release. It will also expand its international presence and form more partnerships with airlines around the world. The app currently sells plane tickets in more than 120 countries.

Hopper is also starting to roll out features in the app that hark back to the company’s “destination discovery” origins, Lalonde said. Three months ago, it launched a “recommendation engine” similar to how Netflix serves up related TV shows and films to users based on what they’ve watched. With Hopper, say a user has been monitoring the price of flights from New York to Rome. The app might suggest he or she consider flying to Milan instead because it’s 50 percent cheaper for the desired travel dates, Lalonde said.

The recommendations have been driving more sales, Lalonde said. “We sold $1 million [worth] of flights that no one asked for last week alone,” he added.

“We’re working on a series of features that are coming out next year that starts extending the conversation we have with our users,” Lalonde said.

Hopper has become one of the most popular travel apps on the market, Lalonde said. But it has a long way to go to build a business the size of large competitors like Expedia (NASDAQ: EXPE) and Priceline (NASDAQ: PCLN). For now, the startup must prove it can continue growing its user base and sales, and sustain that growth over the long haul.

“We’re definitely aiming for a big play,” Lalonde said.

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