Why we invested in Hopper
The Montreal-based travel startup Hopper just announced a financing of $82 million, with impressive milestones to back it up: They are the only company that can forecast future flight prices with 95% accuracy up to a year in advance of departure; Hopper collects five to eight billion airfare price quotes every day; has scaled to more than 10 Million users; and is now selling more than $1 million in flights per day!
As the first investors in Hopper, we thought we’d give you an exclusive look at why we believed the company had what it takes to make it a success.
Energy and passion
When Fred Lalonde walked into our Montreal office in 2007 with a pitch deck, we fell in love! I say fell in love because, as investors, we need to first fall in love with a team. Building a startup is so hard that you need amazing people to pull it through. Fred has the right mix of arrogance, smarts, energy, talent, vision and ambition that makes anything possible.
We invested a few months after meeting him, based on a vision to completely disrupt the largest online industry: Travel. We were not sure how; but we knew it was going to be really hard and perhaps impossible. We liked it!
Leadership and resilience
First, Fred had to build his team. The golden rule: hire slowly, but fire fast — a rule he knows and applies really well. Most CEOs “give” under pressure at some point because it is so hard to find the most talented people. But it is a most critical element, the first 10–20 people you hire will make (or break) the company. Hopper has built an amazing team with patience and discipline.
Then, for the next 6 years, the team built the underlying technology that would automate travel and flights discovery. It was really hard but they never gave up!
Vision and boldness
In 2014, the most amazing thing happened : as the company was still searching for the right product offering, their early users showed them the way. Hopper did what few startups actually do — they listened. Consumers were really intrigued and interested in their flight prediction tool, a smaller feature of their product at the time. The company reacted immediately and made a very bold drastic move : become the next generation’s “flight booking company”, focused on mobile only. The company changed overnight. Very few entrepreneurs are confident and bold enough to make those bold moves, but Fred and his team were.
Today the company is announcing a very important financing alongside impressive growth and market traction. Historically, in the early 2000s, travel bookings was one of the first categories of business to move online in a significant way, but largely stopped innovating years ago. Hopper has reacted by offering meaningful innovation with a strong vision and an amazing product — and most importantly, with a fabulous team!
At Brightspark, we invest in people first. Hopper and Fred are the best example of how leadership, resilience and vision are the keys to success.