Hopper, the mobile travel booking startup and app that lets users book flights, hotels, cars, and — most recently — short-term home rentals a la Airbnb and VRBO, has been on a fast pace of growth in the wake of Covid-19 travel restrictions loosening up in the last year, with 70 million downloads to date and $2 billion+ in travel sales last year. Now the company is gearing up for its next steps. TechCrunch has learned and confirmed that the company has raised $35 million in a secondary share sale that values the company at $5 billion.
For some context, the Canadian startup was valued at a little over $3.5 billion just five months ago, when it raised $175 million in a Series G round of funding.
The secondary sale, a source said, was aimed at employees, giving them some liquidity “so they don’t have to wait for a potential IPO.” Buyers of the shares included Drive Capital, Stack Capital Group (which independently also announced of its part in the investment) and existing investors. (That list includes Goldman Sachs, Inovia Capital, Omers, Citi, and others.
There is no date as of yet for when it might go public, which is one reason for running a secondary sale to give liquidity now. But Hopper has confirmed that this is the plan.
“We see an IPO in the future, but we are heads down and focused on innovating on behalf of our customers so we don’t have a concrete plan or timeline around it,” Frederic Lalonde, the CEO, told TechCrunch in an email. “There’s a lot left that we want to do before we take on a public offering.” Specifically, he said the company is focused on growing its margins and newer lines of business, which include the short-term home rentals that it launched last month; its new B2B platform Hopper Cloud; and international expansion.
A Hopper spokesperson described this latest transaction as “purely secondary”, and a source confirmed that Hopper is not currently raising new outside funding, after bringing in some $345 million last year. (Before the Series G, Hopper raised a Series F of $170 million in March 2021.)
Covid-19 dealt a heavy blow to the tourism and travel industries, with people unable or unwilling to travel, the closure of many hospitality venues and leisure attractions, and governments restricting how people could move around in a bid to contain the spread of the pandemic.
But a number of companies in those verticals found ways to reposition their businesses — for example, companies selling “experiences” at different destinations turned to running virtual experiences over video; others built out more services to help their partners and suppliers manage the pandemic better themselves. And then, as travel and tourism started to return, so did those companies’ original business funnels.
Such was the case for Hopper, which said its revenues grew by over 300% in 2021 compared to 2020 — growth that it’s sustained and actually improved, with monthly revenues now 375% higher than they were pre-pandemic.
Specific areas are performing particularly well. The company said that its share of air travel sales in North America has increased by 300% compared to before the pandemic started. (It doesn’t say what its actual share is either now or in the past. Other competitors in the space include other aggregators like Booking.com and Travelocity, Opodo, Expedia, SkyScanner, and direct sales from the airlines themselves.)
Price Freeze and Rebooking Guarantee, two of the additional services it offers for those buying plane tickets, account for 70% of all of Hoppers air revenues. Hopper describes these as “travel fintech” and they are a key way of the company making better margins on what is otherwise a very commoditized business.
Another part of the reason for Hopper’s performance was the launch of Hopper Cloud, which was the company’s own effort to diversify its business by building out a bigger B2B platform for the companies that it was already working with in its B2C aggregation platform, and it now accounts for 15% of the company’s revenues. (Hopper Cloud lets travel companies integrate Hopper’s travel services and its “fintech” products; partners include Capital One, Kayak, Marriott, Amadeus, Trip.com, and MakeMyTrip.)
Hopper, as we understand it, is not raising any more outside capital at the moment.