Hopper, the Startup That’s Been in Stealth for Six Years Finally (soft) Launched This Week

It’s been six years since a bunch of ex-Expedia and TripAdvisor engineers started working on Hopper, a Montreal and Boston-based startup that has raised $22 million in funding.

This week the long-awaited consumer trip planning engine powered by the “world’s largest structured database of travel information” finally opened to users who want to open up free accounts. Apparently the company is stressing that it’s not a launch and its still in alpha mode, but this is still a relative breakthrough.

The alpha launch may have started last summer when Hopper was putting early requesters on a waiting list. But now anyone can join, check out travelling tips and tools and book flights.

The company was founded in 2007 and the company’s executive team is made up of founder and CEO Frederic Lalonde of Montreal, co-founder and VP Product Joost Ouwerkerk, VP Technology André Coudé, and CIO Mathieu Patenaude.

In August 2012 it raised $12 million series B round to grow its team in Boston. OMERS Ventures led the round with participation from Brightspark Ventures and Atlas Venture.

Hopper reportedly will “kill Google for travellers” and the company previously claimed to have breakthrough semantic search technology.

Having done a bit of travelling myself, naturally I signed up. The home page is simply a bunch of travel articles by various bloggers, but once one searches for a location it gets interesting. I searched one of my favourite Latin American cities, Medellin, and out came a detailed page with flight prices, a wikitravel explanation of the city, links to the municipal website, a Google map of downtown and a few articles about the city.

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One can also search flights from any airport, check out links to various regions, attractions, food and drink and lodgings. I’m sure as the site grows a bit more the pages will be filled with information, but right now the aim is to not ambush users with too much information, like flight schedules.

Although nothing specific has been revealed, tnooz reported that “One possible product is to enable users to set up live price-tracking feeds so that they can see a price drop or trend in demand for routes they tell the site they’re interested in, such as ski destinations or beaches in Europe.”

As far as plans for a full launch, every other blog’s guess is as good as mine. It’s not too much yet, particularly after all the press and hype Hopper has evidently received in the past, but the assumption now as users is that we probably haven’t seen anything yet.

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