How FindHotel keeps on growing against the odds

FindHotel just marked another beautiful milestone, with 2M bookings done through FindHotel in the past 12 months, a 40% YoY growth in a year that has not been the best time to be a European travel startup. Yet, here we are, a team of 73, self-funded, and a product that in its core enables price comparison, a hardly revolutionary offer in 2021. How can that be?!

Some contributing factors helped:

  • Europeans barely ventured outside their homes in the past year, but Asians & Americans did travel locally thanks to far less restrictive lockdowns & larger internal borders (US, CA) which means that even in normal times most travel is within country borders. We also benefit from the fact that we are designed from the ground up to be global, and travel in general and accommodations in particular is very much a global industry.
  • We are a very pragmatic bunch, shying away from chasing fashions and instead invest our time and efforts where customers are, and on making the market more efficient for our customers. If they book, we are doing something right, and if they don’t, we change.
  • Our team may be small but it is an exceptionally strong group of people who were chosen based on merit, work well together despite (or thanks to) their global roots, and are open to new ideas and data driven experimentation like no other.

Strategy helps too

If you look at FindHotel you might see a comparison site (similar to Kayak or Trivago) combined with a booking site (similar to Booking or Expedia) and you’d be right to critically think that ‘a hybrid of the two is nice, but is it really a leap forward’? Does it really help travelers find the best hotel at the best price in a way only a comparison site cannot?

The best way to understand why we got to this hybrid solution is to mention an anecdotal problem we had when we were just a comparison site. We would have the following situation for a hotel:

Hotel The Broken Hearts - 7 stars / 9.9 review rating

#1

Best booking site

€200 per night

#2

Great booking site

€200 per night

#3

Not so good booking site

€120 per night

On one hand, we would think: ‘we helped our customer get a great deal and save €80 per night’!

On the other, we would send them to a site that was not so good, and since we knew they would still be more likely to book at the ‘best’ & ‘great’ booking sites, we showed them first (our sort order projects what customers are likely to book for a given nightly price and booking site combination).

This solution was correct from a data perspective, and OK from a customer experience one (those who are really price sensitive would be OK jumping through some hoops with the not so good site), but it felt like we could do much more to actually solve the customer problem and support our mission: ‘get every customer the best accommodation deal worldwide’.

So, in order to make these great deals available to customers in a great experience, we saw that we needed to build our own booking site, which now accounts for >20% of the bookings on FindHotel and growing rapidly while keeping access to the same great prices.

One other anecdote is about ‘membership’. When we started FindHotel we thought that if we worked on a user-centric model (we get a commission when someone completes their stay and avoid any ad driven revenues), we will be able to access all the hotels and prices in the market, compare and sort them objectively and voila! A customer-centric solution will surface all the deals.
But travel distribution is a highly nuanced world where a price on desktop ≠ price on mobile, and a rate we can show someone when they are a member is not a rate we can show when they are not.

To solve for these we redesigned our product architecture, user interface and our marketing to support four layers of segmentation for every offer. Thus, comparing not just ‘one offer per partner per hotel’, but up to 4 offers for each hotel room, showing each visitor the best offer available for their path (device, membership level).

By turning complex distribution problems into simple products that help unlock value for customers we are able to build a fast-growing, profitable and highly ambitious company even in the year of Corona.

There is still a lot for us to do as we aim to scale +10X in the coming years, making FindHotel a brand for power travelers & price sensitive customers the world over, and turning our hybrid comparison and booking engine into a user centric marketplace with various ways of unlocking better value for the customer.  

The coming months will help fuel growth further due to the pent up demand for travel which is easy to underestimate, and we will see it coming in different waves as more countries reach herd immunity and cross-border travel restrictions are lifted. After a year where being in a travel company was ‘not the best place to be’, we are entering a period where travel is the place to be, and within it we are positioning FindHotel to become a market leader in accommodations in the 2020’s.

If you want to be part of this journey, take a look at our openings - we are aiming to triple our team to 200 FTE by the end of 2022 and need plenty of help to pull it off. We’re looking for talented individuals to join us across various teams, from Product to Engineering to Analytics, and are hiring in Amsterdam & remote.