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Flight search startup Hipmunk could be profitable if it wanted to be — but it’s more interested in growing as quickly as possible.
And it looks like the growth strategy is working. The site passed 1 million monthly searches this month, and its search traffic is growing by around 15 percent each month, according to the company. The flight and hotel search company was cash flow positive when it started, but initiated some expansion plans — like hiring a revenue officer and rapidly expanding its team — and has grown like crazy since then.
“If we wanted to be cash flow positive, it would be relatively straightforward to do it, we would just let organic growth continue to drive the growth that we want,” Hipmunk chief executive Adam Goldstein said. “Realistically, we want to grow even faster than that, so we’re putting off the cash flow positive strategy for another year or two.”
The site, which orders the flights by a hodgepodge metric called “agony” that includes delays and connections, has saved more than 150,000 hours of “agony” since it launched a year ago. Part of Hipmunk’s charm is its streamlined interface — the site only requires a user to enter a general location and a few dates. Once browsers find a flight they like, they can jump to Orbitz to book the flight.
“What’s particularly impressive about the mobile share is the mobile apps have only been around for a very short period of time compared to the rest of the site,” Goldstein said. “It’s managed to become a big chunk of our search and usage in such a short period of time.”
Hipmunk still doesn’t have any plans to create a mobile browser application built off HTML5 — which is widely seen as a successor to Flash, a coding infrastructure that powers most web applications today. Goldstein said the company wants to focus on delivering a killer user experience, and part of that strategy involves creating native applications rather than web applications.
The company also features a hotel search engine that is less popular than the flight search engine but makes much more money for the site, Goldstein said. The search engine uses a proprietary sorting mechanism that sorts hotels by “ecstasy” — a combination of hotel ratings, prices and other metrics. Just about every flight search engine has a hotel booking service — and that’s how they end up making a majority of their money.
Hipmunk has raised $4.2 million in funding in a round led by Ignition Partners. The company is a Y-Combinator incubated startup co-founded by Goldstein and Steve Huffman. Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian is one of the site’s main designers and is the man responsible for the adorable chipmunk logo that’s part of the site’s charming appeal.
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