Australian travel search FlightFox has a new take on how to surface the best airline deals, and now it has a round of angel funding and entry into top startup incubator Y Combinator, to go along with it. The company has just closed an $800,000 round of funding from YC, 500 Startups, Kevin Laws (board member at AngelList), Matt Dickinson (early investor in Ark), Mick Liubinskas (from Pollenizer), and others.
As for what makes FlightFox unique? Instead of developing algorithms to return a list of flights to choose from, the company taps into the power of crowdsourcing instead.
On FlightFox, users begin by creating a contest for the trip they want to take, sharing details pertaining to destinations, duration, and price to beat (coming soon), for example. But travelers can also add more specific details and requests in the “additional information” section of the contest creation screen to narrow their requirements further.
Users then assign a “finder’s fee” to the contest which is awarded to whichever FlightFox expert finds them the best deal on the best flight. These experts, or flight hackers as they’re called, are a mixed group, consisting primarily of frequent flyers, but also including around 5%-10% travel agents. They’re folks that know all the ins and outs of airline travel, from details like seat size and entertainment selections, in addition to how to carve out the best deals and maximize your frequent flyer miles.
Explains FlightFox co-founder Lauren McLeod, expert frequent flyers are already sharing their knowledge for free on online forums like FlyerTalk, for example – a site that boasts some 400,000 members. FlightFox simply allows them to earn a little extra money on the side.
The finder’s fee is set by the traveller, and is still something of a work in progress. The site is testing several different fees, ranging from $19-$39, currently. The contest format is like a reverse of the eBay model, McLeod explains, as whichever expert gets in first with the best flight and best advice wins the fee. For another to win, they’d have to find a better flight. (Note that better doesn’t always mean cheaper. Sometimes it could be about reducing travel time, or getting more frequent flyer points, e.g.)
FlightFox’s service works best for long, international or multi-city flights where piecing together the different legs of a journey, even with Kayak or Hipmunk’s help for example, is still somewhat arduous for less regular flyers. While FlightFox users will still have to go off and book the trips themselves, they at least have the ability to communicate with each expert one-on-one, asking them questions about the trips, and receiving help with booking instructions.
Currently, McLeod says that 500 experts have signed up with FlightFox, but around 50 are really active on the site.
Aussie co-founders of FlightFox, McLeod and Todd Sullivan, who previously ran and sold another travel site known as Globetrooper, have now relocated to San Francisco to participate in the current YC program. They plan to remain indefinitely. FlightFox is already live, and you can check it out here.