Hipmunk seems content to keep its nose to the grindstone and invest in its platforms. How long it can be viable as a smaller player in an increasingly croweded marketplace remains to be seen.
Hipmunk CEO Adam Goldstein candidly admits that his travel metasearch company doesn’t have the scale that he’d like, but he sees some advantages, arguing that the larger players are in a position where they can stand much risk as they build their “subpar products.”
“The others are spending a lot of time and money building what I think are subpar products, and it is going to take a lot of time and money to build some better ones, too.”
Without naming names such as Kayak, Trivago, Skyscanner, or Google, Goldstein simply says Hipmunk’s competitors “have large audiences of existing users, who are loyal by inertia.”
So what is Hipmunk doing that’s so special?
Goldstein points to Hipmunk displaying vacation rentals and rooms from Airbnb and HomeAway, as well as Amtrak fares.
“Lots of sites pretend Airbnb doesn’t exist,” Goldstein says. “They are not showing Amtrak. We’ve had HomeAway for two-and-a-half years.”
With lots of travel metasearch companies now taking direct bookings that are usually fulfilled by a single online travel agency partners, Goldstein points out that Hipmunk now displays Book Hipmunk possibilities from multiple OTAs simultaneously as they vie to provide last-minute or mobile-only rates.
Participating OTAs on Hipmunk include Expedia, Getaroom.com and Booking.com.
Where is Metasearch Headed?
Goldstein believes that metasearch, which is already stealing share from OTAs, will see the pendulum revert to metasearch’s early days where it was a way for travel suppliers to cut out OTAs and make metasearch a supplier-dominated channel.
Goldstein argues that hotel chains will one day see the value of direct booking on metasearch sites, and will participate as behind the scenes fulfillment partners.
Founded in 2010, and with $20.2 million in total funding, Hipmunk isn’t profitable by choice, Goldstein says, as it invests in its smartphone, tablet and desktop strategies.
Goldstein says some companies may be successful going mobile-only, but they won’t be the ultimate winners.
“It’s way too early dismissing all the channels, but one,” Golstein says, referring to mobile.
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