Hopper Reels In $100M to Boost Travel-Booking App’s A.I.

Xconomy Boston — 

Travel-booking app Hopper is taking a big leap this morning, announcing a $100 million venture funding round.

The Series D financing was led by Omers Ventures. Other investors in the round included new backer Citi Ventures, as well as earlier Hopper investors Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ), Accomplice, Brightspark Ventures, Investissement Québec, and BDC Capital IT Venture Fund.

Hopper says the new money will be used to speed up its international expansion and fund further development of artificial intelligence technologies that power its product. The company says it has raised $184 million in venture funding to date.

Hopper got started in 2007 in Montreal, Canada, and opened an office in Cambridge, MA, in 2011. It also has offices in New York; Sydney, Australia; and Sofia, Bulgaria. It employs around 200 people, and plans to double the size of its staff over the next year, according to a press release.

The company was initially developing a travel discovery website built on a humongous trove of data. It spent several years crawling the Web for quality travel data—think user-generated blogs, photos, and other content—and structuring that information. The idea was to improve the online travel discovery process and enable users to search for specific things, like a vacation rental in Spain that’s within walking distance of a golf course.

Hopper ultimately decided to change course and build a mobile app that aims to simplify the flight-booking process.

Users search for a trip, and the app crunches the company’s archive of trillions of past flight prices to predict when a flight to that destination will likely be cheapest. If the app recommends a user wait to book a flight, it can keep tabs on fares and notify the person the second prices drop. If the software calculates that a user should jump on the purchase now, he or she can quickly book the flight within Hopper’s app. People can also use it to book hotel rooms. The company makes money by charging fees on transactions conducted through its app.

One of the interesting things about Hopper’s approach is that although it has a website, its service is offered solely through the mobile app. In a prepared statement, CEO and co-founder Frederic Lalonde characterized Hopper as taking advantage of the world’s “shift from Web to mobile—and to apps in particular.” (Lalonde is pictured above on the right, with Hopper co-founder and CTO Joost Ouwerkerk.)

Hopper says its app has been downloaded more than 30 million times, and more than 50 percent of its revenues come from repeat customers. Another notable stat: the company says 25 percent of the bookings on its app are generated by its machine learning algorithms—meaning users booked trips they didn’t specifically search for, but which the app recommended to them.

Hopper is one of the fastest-growing travel startups with a presence in the Boston area, which has had a strong travel tech cluster for more than a decade. Notable local players include Kayak, TripAdvisor (NASDAQ: TRIP), and Wanderu. There was also ITA Software, which Google acquired a few years ago.