Hopper’s Lalonde talks profits, Expedia split, Booking.com competition


“Scrappy. Brazen. Underdog.”

Those were the words Siew Hoon Yeoh, the founder and editorial director of WiT, used to describe Fred Lalonde and, by extension, Hopper, the company he co-founded and leads as CEO.

Speaking on Center Stage at The Phocuswright Conference in Fort Lauderdale this month, Lalonde lived up to the description during a far-ranging conversation that closed the three-day conference.

You want scrappy? Lalonde spoke of his roots as a “nerd in the basement” who still approaches business more with the attitude of a hacker than a business school major.

“When I see a business problem, I want to hack it,” he said.

Brazen? “What defines Hopper is speed. … It’s how fast we move, how fast we experiment, how willing we are to listen to a customer and roll back something that’s not working or pivot to something better. … Hopper is all about moving faster and listening to the customer.”

Underdog? Lalonde had plenty of moments to cover that role, speaking about the company’s October decision to lay off 250 employees — “It’s never fun to do that, but fundamentally we have to get to profitability” — and a July split with Expedia Group that had both sides exchanging barbs over motives.

“Fundamentally, what this has done is make us much, much stronger,” he said of the split. “More options to distribute inventory is a good thing. Competition is a good thing.”

The brazen came out again when he predicted Hopper would reach profitability next year. But he sounded more underdog when asked if he saw Hopper as a company killer — a phrase that circulated through the conference after a session with Kayak co-founders Paul English and Steve Hafner when English jabbed at his former partner by referring to his new venture, Deets, as a “Kayak killer.”

Would the scrappy Lalonde be coming after, say, Booking.com?

“I don’t think anybody’s going to kill Booking.com; I think it’s a formidable company, if I’m being honest,” he said. “But I think there needs to be more diversity in who you can distribute with. You need new business models, new platforms. It’s been a long time since somebody has said, ‘We’re going this alone and we’re going to be 25% of every major market.’ That’s what we’re doing.”

Watch the full discussion — which also covered topics like Hopper’s fintech products and Lalonde’s admiration for Asian culture and its speed in adopting new technology — in the video below.

The Path Forward with Hopper’s CEO Fred Lalonde – The Phocuswright Conference


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