The Best Update Ever from Hitlist (#23)

This past month Hitlist reached a new high for downloads and bookings – 14x annual growth, compared to the same month last year.

Much of this was spurred by two articles in BuzzFeed. But we also ran a marketing campaign in Spain that shot us up to #2 in travel and #28 overall – heights we’ve only previously achieved during App Store features. It’s great to figure out how to move the needle on our own, especially as we go into the summer travel season.

THIS MONTH’s FOCUS: payments + press

  • I’d love to talk to anyone who has set up IATA accreditation or done payment processing/assisted booking for a travel startup
  • We’re looking for story ideas to pitch to press. We have a bounty of interesting data that could be turned into newsworthy and/or clickbaity stuff. (What destinations are comparably cheap right now compared to a year ago? Do people who live in Brooklyn have different destination preferences than people who live in Manhattan?). Anything you think Hitlist might know that you’d like to know?
  • In conjunction with the above: we’re looking for someone passionate about diving into data and/or pitching press. Job description for the more data science-y version of the role, click to tweet.


  • The Hitlist app v3.5 is out and with it our referral system. Share the personalized link you find from your profile page on Twitter, Facebook, text or email to earn points, which will earn you things like free flights to Australia (more on that soon!)
  • We’re running a sweepstakes campaign with Fathom, Martha Stewart Weddings, Atlas Obscura, and Food52 to ‘the Jennifer Aniston of destinations’, Italy, starting next week. If you like free trips to Italy, visit this link after 5/23.
  • We had a team meeting in Malmö to chart next steps in product development. Thanks Veronika Bartosch for connecting us to Minc, a fantastic government-sponsored coworking space. Highly recommended if you need a free offsite that feels like the inside of an IKEA catalog.


  • I’m speaking at the M1 Summit, sponsored by ENIAC Ventures, on May 17th in NYC. Request an invite here.
  • I’ll be at Travel Tech Con in San Francisco May 21st. Tickets here.

WHY WE’RE DOING THIS: 88% of people abandon their flight bookings because they’re just trying to educate themselves on what options are available. What a waste of time and energy (and API calls for the search provider). Some day, we hope Hitlist will save you from having to look for flights (or hotels or activities) at all, because we’ll know you well enough to suggest the ideal option at thebest price every time.
GIF OF THE MONTH: I’m going to make this one a caption contest: reply with your best.


The Best Update Ever from Hitlist (#22)

Some news to start off this update:  Hitlist competed at TechCrunch’s pitch-off in Brooklyn in March and we won the audience choice award – more validation for our user-friendly approach that makes arranging travel not only cheaper and easier, but social and fun.

Onwards. A quarter of all apps are abandoned after a single use: so reports the Economist, the only magazine my father subscribes me to.

Retaining users is one of the hardest things for new apps and brands to pull off. It’s especially difficult for travel booking apps, since people travel so infrequently (the average American takes fewer than 3 flights/year). Considering that, it’s pretty remarkable that nearly 50% of people who sign up for Hitlist in a given month use it the next month and rolling retention doesn’t fall below 10%, even after a year.

We’ve been able to do this by building a differentiated, high quality app, and by building a community with awesome people like you. Hitlist users have connected offline, sent us pictures of their adventures, and convinced their friends to sign up.

This month’s focus: community. We’re looking for people/brands to partner with to help get the rest of the world on Hitlist.

  1. If you know anyone with a social following who already uses Hitlist, let me know.
  2. Please fill out this quick survey to help us better target potential strategic partners.
  3. Does anyone have connections to DJ Khaled? We hear he doesn’t fly and we think he should get off the ground with Hitlist. (better idea than jet skiing at night)


– Last month’s focus was hiring and we’re excited to announce that Ludovico Sutto has joined the team on the engineering side to work on our personalization and recommendation engine. Ludo joins us after ten years of cancer research and various startups/side projects. My favorite is, from which I learned that Falco’s ‘Rock Me Amadeus’ was the hit song the week I was born. Those who know me well will agree this is perfect on many levels.

– Hitlist is a finalist for something cool and we had to submit a short film introducing Hitlist and me. The very talented Alexander Tarrant helped put this video together in a day.

– On April Fool’s day, we turned Wandertab into Wandertabby, showcasing a new destination, how much it costs to get there, and an adorable cat with every new tab. Paste javascript:WT.debugDeal = { today: ‘2016-04-01 10:00’ };into the search bar of a new Chrome tab and refresh twice to relive the magic.

– We’ve revamped our email strategy with the help of Dozen Digital, an agency in NYC (one of the respondents to November’s RFA). We’re pleased with their work and recommend them highly!


– I’ll be speaking at the New York Travel Festival this Saturday, April 16th on trends and innovations in travel. Tickets here, use ‘HITLISTWEEKEND’ for a discount on the weekend travel pass.

– Next week, I’ll be speaking on distribution technology at the Airline Information event in Barcelona.

Why are we doing this?

US Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker put it nicely in tweet length:

Travel builds bridges.

It strengthens economies.

It creates deeper ties between nations.

It gives all citizens a new perspective.  

GIF of the month

ferris at museum low res

There have been really cheap flights to Chicago – who’s up for a visit to the Art Institute?

The Best Update Ever from Hitlist (#21)

It’s been too long since our last update from Hitlist-land. The holidays lend themselves to introspection, and we’ve been thinking: is what we’re doing working? Yes, we concluded, but only after taking a hard look at how the competitive landscape is evolving.

We’ve never wavered in our mission, outlined in the very first of these updates: to help people travel more (and help suppliers/marketers sell more travel) by providing consumers with the information most relevant to creating easier, cheaper, and more fulfilling travel experiences.

We believe our vision for the future of travel will win out, but there’s more than one way to skin a cat. Investors seem obsessed with the idea of chat apps in this space. Google’s latest mobile search offering incorporates parts of what we do at Hitlist. Meanwhile, there was a lively discussion on Hacker News on why you should never try building a travel startup. (Not all startups are created equal).

At the end of the day, we come back to the numbers: our revenue in the first month of 2016 was higher than what we made in the first ten months of 2015 combined. We have more traction per dollar invested than any travel app in the last five years save one (bonus if you know which one). Many mountains left to climb but we’re proud of where we are and excited about where it’s going.

Our current priority is hiring. We’re looking for smart motivated people for the following positions:

If you know anyone who fits the bill please send them our way.


– Monday, 7 March: we’re co-hosting a happy hour with Party With A Local at a venue TBD in San Francisco, RSVP here

– We’ve been convening high-level travel ‘think tanks’ with some of the most interesting/influential people in new travel media over the last few months, from the head of Snapchat Discover to Instagram stars with 1m followers, as we incubate a new Hitlist product. Next one will be in Los Angeles at the end of this month. Know any travel-media-founder-influencer types we should invite?

– I’ll be at the Launch conference in San Francisco March 2-4th, please let me know if you’ll be there and/or if there’s anything I should know about

– Julia, our marketing lead, will be in Berlin for ITB March 7-10th talking with destination marketers. Please let us know if there’s anyone she should meet!


– We’ve shipped v3.4 to Apple, an unsexy update: lots of substantial changes, but mostly under-the-hood things to lay the groundwork for the launch of our referral program and a stealthy new content development. Should be live in the next week.

– I’m honored to have been named a New York Venture Fellow, following in some pretty amazing footsteps, such as the founders of Foursquare, Etsy, Rent the Runway, Makerbot, Warby Parker, etc.

– You know you have good fans when a developer/designer completely redesigns your website for free. Thanks Andrew Nater for inspiring us to take this off the back burner – new version will be out soon.

– I spoke about ‘Getting the most out of Partnerships’ at the San Francisco Travel Startups meetup in January.  Slides here. Shares appreciated! Click to tweet.

– Great press/love from blogosphere continues: posts from Skift, Tnooz,LifeHack, The Surge, Dreamers // Doers, Brian Harniman, Konrad of World Venture Project, Anthony Marnell, and the borderline NSFW Instagram starMewsha.

– Our favorite non-Hitlist thing on the internet recently: NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory released a set of gorgeous retro space travel posters (download high-res versions to print yourself)

WHY WE’RE DOING THIS: because the upcoming generations are spending on experiences, not things, and that’s a trend we want to accelerate.

GIF OF THE MONTH: in honor of the fact that my parents inadvertently went to a showing of Boogie Nights at their local art house cinema


The Best Update Ever from Hitlist (#20)

A few weeks ago at the PhoCusWright conference (= annual gathering of travel industry bigwigs), Lorraine Sileo asked a panel of travel CEOs whether they prioritize growth or retaining users. A friend pointed out: ‘Um – is this one of those size versus staying power debates?’

I’ve been thinking about this a lot. Obviously everyone wants growth AND retention, but if you had to have one or the other, which is more important?

At Hitlist, we’re making progress on the growth front. Our base line of new user registrations/day for November was double what it was in October. This is important because most of our growth spurts in the past have come from things we couldn’t control, namely App Store features and press. Having our base line of organic installs growing at this rate means that the product is becoming more viral.

At the same time, our bookings have only increased around 20%. So our bookings/user is down, but we’re up in absolute number of bookings. Time to figure out how we can have our cake and eat it too, and for that we could use some help.


We’ve had 672 people apply to work at Hitlist (!), but haven’t found the marketing/product person we’re looking for. Our ideal candidate would be

  • someone who’s built a venture backed startup before (based on the stage and team size, it’s been suggested that an EIR might be a good fit – any ideas?)
  • is more interested in equity than salary (we will pay a salary, but we’d rather someone whose primary motivation is building the company value)

If you have ideas – a candidate or how to find the right fit – please email me directly.

LAST MONTH’s FOCUS: strategy. In the process of talking to dozens of users, industry insiders, and investors, one thing became apparent: not everyone understands what Hitlist plans to do.

So here’s a clarification: Hitlist is a personalized travel agent that we hope will become the default place you go to research and book travel on mobile. A bit more on what we think that means here. Make sense? Time will tell!

  • Dave Baggett, co-founder of ITA Software (sold to Google for $700m) has joined as an advisor to Hitlist. ITA tackled many of the gnarliest problems in this industry and we’re extremely grateful to have his guidance as we do the same.
  • we’re on Product Hunt today and trending well – if you like what we’re doing an upvote is always appreciated.
  • v3.3 of the app is live with support – book all your hotels through Hitlist and I will buy you and your firstborn candy for life
  • Paul Adams, VP of Product @ Intercom, wrote an article about the priorities of good product design that was briefly the top trending post on Medium. He highlights an app our iOS developer, Tomislav Filipcic, built in 2010, as a shining example of user-centric design. May everything we build have just as much staying power.
  • Pro tip: if you’re interested in travel trends, you can watch all the keynote addresses from Phocuswright online: program, link to videos


I’d love to send you a small gift! Please leave your address here.

Because 2016 is the year the majority of travelers will start booking on mobile and we can be a leader there. And because travel is the best way to spend your money.

Robert Redford agrees.


The Best Update Ever from Hitlist (#19)

Greetings, beautiful people.

Last week I learned that a major hotel chain* uses Hitlist for some of its corporate travel. They send people to all their properties periodically and instead of just booking whenever, they now tend to book when they get Hitlist alerts.

I’ve always argued that a significant portion of travel is flexible on date and/or destination, and that we serve that use case best. I’m still figuring out how big ‘significant portion’ is, but this is validation that it’s larger than many thought. It’s particularly exciting that it applies even in a corporate setting as using Hitlist alerts to plan travel could save corporations $$$$ annually.

Last month’s focus was partnerships. We’ll have AirBnb (via Button) and live in the app this month. We have a few other exciting partnerships in the works as well but I need to save some thunder forPhoCusWright. So stay tuned for some major announcements there!

This month’s focus: strategy. Request for assistance (RFAs):

  • Feedback: I’d REALLY like to hear what you have to say about the product, the team, whatever. Please copy and paste this link into your browser to fill out a short survey, anonymously if you like.

  • Email: We’ve got >300k subscribers and I’d like to develop an email campaign strategy that provides value to our users and helps us grow. What are the best email campaigns you’ve seen? Do you have a recommendation for a consultant/mentor who can help us develop our strategy?


  • Les Ottolenghi, former CIO/CTO of Carson Wagonlit and most recently CIO of Las Vegas Sands has joined us as an investor and advisor. A short list of his achievements in the industry include building and launching the first online hotel booking system and developing the search engine that powered the first version of Kayak. We’re pleased to be working with a pioneer in the industry to build the next big evolution of online travel booking.

  • We’ve retooled the onboarding flow for v3.2. Most importantly, you no longer have to log in to set up alerts.

  • We pushed a new version of Wandertab and my father texted me at 11:46pm on a Saturday night to tell me it is ‘such a joy’. #winning

  • Sasha Hoffman of Fuzzy Compass and I gave a talk about ‘The Growth Hacks that turned Startups into Giants’ at the Skift Global Forum. Thanks to Skift for the opportunity and for putting on such a great event.

  • We released a fun infographic about where the Republican Candidates have traveled, and Fortune picked it up.

  • Thanks to Dan Fennessy of Party With a Local and Tim Loonen ofTripbod for helping me throw a happy hour for travel startup people in Amsterdam – lots of exciting things afoot over there.


  • Tnooz THack November 13-15th in NYC – come hack with (or against!) Hitlist!

  • November 16th I’ll be pitching in the Battleground at PhoCusWright, the premier travel industry conference. Please send good vibes and/or tweet at the judges (list) to lobby for Hitlist.


Too few vacations get taken, despite heaps of evidence that they in fact improve productivity rather than hamper it. Many people have the time and money to travel, but don’t because existing search engines are only optimal if you know where and when you’re going. If you have any flexibility you’re probably going to get frustrated searching through your options and give up… unless you know about Hitlist.


We get a hurricane cat GIF in celebration of the fact that Edward Snowden called my old cat ‘adorable’ on Twitter.

As always: thank you for being here. May your autumn be colorful and spicy.

– Gillian

* I’m checking with the CEO to make sure it’s ok to say which hotel chain

The Best Update Ever from Hitlist (#18)

Commuting to midtown during the month of August felt a little like the opening scene of 28 Days Later. We’re glad you’re back, non-startup people, and we’re glad there wasn’t a zombie apocalypse.

Last month’s focus: GROWTH. In August we passed 100k referrals/month to our partners for the first time. That’s 5x what we saw in June and 157x the same time last year.

This month’s focus: PARTNERSHIPS. Requests for assistance (RFAs):

  1. We’re looking for a partner for a PR opportunity: someone willing to offer/sponsor a unique experience in exchange for brand exposure to our user base and a high-quality startup-focused publication.
  2. Does anyone have connections to destination management organizations (DMOs)? Organizations like Visit Britain, Incredible India, etc.

[Quick aside: a huge thank you to everyone who has answered our RFAs in the past. You’ve delivered on 100% of the requests so far. But this is a two way street: if there’s anything you need help with, please ask]


  • We’re thrilled to announce that Sam Graham has joined us on the engineering side. Sam worked with Luka at DeviantArt; before that he was building data management tools at IMDb. He has seven fewer cats and one more mustache than Luka. We’re unsure of the implications. But we’re excited to be able to do more faster with him on board.

  • We launched a social channel for Hitlist in Arabic. We’ve long had a healthy user base in the Arab world and we’re looking forward to connecting more with that demographic.

  • Groupon launched a clone of Wandertab, our popular Chrome extension. We’re flattered. May it be the first of many times we inspire publicly listed companies to copy us.

  • Apple requested a ‘high quality trailer’ for our app with 24 hour turnaround and we’re insanely happy with the clip that Kate Phillips conceived, shot, and edited within that time frame (huge thanks to Lizzie Rose + the 17 other people who responded to my RFA on Facebook). If you’re looking for something similar (ideally with more lead time), lmk and I can put you in touch.

  • We pulled our Android app. For the moment, it makes more sense to invest our resources in really nailing it on iOS. I’m truly sorry, Droiders, and we’ll be back as soon as possible.

  • Good month for PR (we still haven’t paid for any of this): tweets from Apple, Ivanka Trump, and coverage in the LA Times, US News & World Report, Yahoo, and the Turkish Airlines inflight magazine (the closest I came to an airplane for most of this summer)

  • I wrote ‘Don’t listen to your users’ on how we learned to listen to metrics, not anecdotal feedback, to improve our app.

  • LinkedIn was kind enough to name me one of their ‘Next Wave’ top professionals 35 & under.

  • Thanks to our interns Mia Deng, Paul Nylund, and Dan Stern for a really stellar job this summer.

Why we’re doing this: Rafat Ali of Skift wrote a great piece on how airlines ‘hate sell’ to their customers. “They [the big travel vendors] “discovered” a way of selling online back in the early days of Web 1.0, and most of them have stuck to it, just added layers of conversion tactics which in the end may end up alienating customers, leaving them with little choice but to be comparison-shopaholics. Or better still, pining for disruptors.” Yes, we agree, and we’re working on being one of them.

GIF of the month: Tom Selleck never needs an explanation.

The best update ever from Hitlist (#17)

July has been a good month in Hitlist land: our new user registrations and click through to partners both up close to 50% over June numbers, and we passed 200k registered users (approaching 300k total). Moreover, Craig of Craigslist named us two (?) out of the four women-led startups disrupting travel. We love Craig.

Last month’s focus was product. We shipped v3.0, the culmination of four months’ worth of learnings, hopes, and insomnia, last week. It will go live any day now.

Focus for August: USER GROWTH. Requests for assistance (RFAs):

  • Does anyone know anyone at Fortune, on either the business or editorial side? I have a quick question.
  • I’ve been working on a news piece called ‘Everything you’ve ever heard about the right time to buy airfare is wrong.’ I think it might make a good TV spot on a news/business/lifestyle show like the TODAY show. Advice on who to pitch and any contacts?


– We won the 33entrepreneurs pitch competition in Boston, giving us a shot at competing at PhoCusWright’s Travel Innovation Summit, the American Idol of travel startup competitions, this November (avoiding the usual $15k entry fee). Thanks Florian Mesny and co for the opportunity.

Wandertab continues to grow like gangbusters (~1.4m views this month, up 40% over last month) and we’ve begun to feature original work by artists like Tanveer Badal, one of our favorite rising star travel photographers (see his work in Conde Nast Traveler and the Instagram). Wandertab was also featured in Wired’s July print edition in Germany as the best entrypoint to the travel journey (thanks Katrin Buckenmaier for sending us the copy!)

– We graduated from the inaugural class of Grand Central Tech (which just admitted a star-studded second batch) and moved upstairs in the same building, 335 Madison. If you find yourself passing through midtown NYC and want to come visit, drop me a line.

– A friend once outlined to me the stages of validation for a consumer brand: customers, critics, creepers. First you need customers/users (check). Then you need legitimate critics – usually writers at mainstream publishers/blogs that weigh in on what you’re doing (check). Then, the ultimate stage of validation: when creepy weirdos start using your product, usually to post porn or troll people. Creepers prove that you’ve broken out of the nerdy early adopter tech set and gone mainstream. By this measure, we should probably be excited to be seeing some of the bizarre feedback emails that have come through since we started beta testing 3.0.

– I wrote a piece on the lessons we’ve learned building Hitlist called ‘Don’t Listen to your Users.’

– Finally, favorite non-Hitlist thing that happened last week: our friend Jourdan ofOcho had the guts to ask LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman if the site’s bad design is a deliberate choice or an oversight. If only politicians responded to criticism as well as Hoffman. link

– As always, if you like what we’re doing: one click tweet. Share on Facebook. Or just direct your friends to Thanks!

Why we’re doing this: Because travel makes the world a better place, explained well here.

GIF of the month: the office on a summer Friday night

Have a wonderful August and may the Hitlist be with you.

The best update ever from Hitlist (#16)

Last month’s focus was growth. Our ‘key metric’ – exits from partners – was 3765 in May, compared to 4233 in April. The fall is attributable to the fact that we neglected to send ANY automated deal alerts in the latter half of the month due to a back end glitch we didn’t notice for two weeks – our collective failure for not having a system that rings alarm bells when these things happen, and a sobering reminder that we haven’t been as vigilant about our metrics as we should be. Lesson learned, fallbacks put in place, will do better next time.

On a brighter note, we saw >1m page views/month across our web and mobile properties. As we’ve still never paid for a download or advertisement, I think we can  be pretty excited for crossing the 1m mark. Now #nosleeptill1bn

This month’s focus: PRODUCT. We’re working very hard on a significant overhaul of the app’s UX, and have started testing v3.0.
  • please sign up for the beta here if you’d like to provide feedback
  • we’d like to do a more-official ‘launch’ when we release v3.0. Any tips on launch strategy, or people you’d recommend consulting?


– ‘If you have a terrible, 10 or 15-year long affliction of wanderlust like I do, Hitlist’s Wandertab on Chrome and Firefox is the worst. Or the best. Or the worst. Well, one of the two.’ – Kim-Mai Cutler of TechCrunch (click to tweet). And if you haven’t already, we highly recommend downloading Wandertab.

– We’ve activated two new revenue streams: syndicating content and one that I’m not quite ready to tell you about yet.

– I’ll be speaking at UserConf Portland on June 26th (tickets here) on ‘When to not listen to user feedback.’

– We’ve started syndicating content to The Points Guy, the best source of advice on how to make the most of your airline/hotel/credit card points to travel for less.

– After nearly a year off, we’re reviving our series of Travel Tech Talks, where we bring industry leaders into dialog with the travel startup community. Last month’s event featured John Caine, the CPO of, and Rafat Ali, the CEO and founder of Skift. One of many interesting points: there seems to be an increasing trend in the tech industry for CMOs to become CEOs, something that would have been nigh-unthinkable a decade ago. If you’d like to attend events like these in the future, sign up here.

Harvard Business Review published an article I wrote on how ‘Traveling the World made me a better Entrepreneur.’

– Hitlist was featured in the Growth Hacking Podcast, Teleport’s Free People Move podcast, and ISPOSSIBLE in Tech’s podcast.

– And Luka, our CTO, got married to the brilliant and beautiful Aleksandra. In lieu of a wedding gift, he would like you to tell all your friends to download Hitlist, tweet about it, share on Facebook, or just direct your friends to For the record, he would also like an Apple Watch. 

Why we’re doing this: 
At the excellent M1 Summit in NYC, (put on by ENIAC VC), Barry Sternlicht, the former CEO of Starwood Hotels, quipped that he’d ‘much rather run a hotel with 10 rooms for $1k/night than 100 rooms at $100/night, it’s just a lot more fun.’ This is an attitude I’ve seen pervasive across top level management in the travel industry. It’s easier, and more ‘fun’, to cater to the high-spending traveler. The vast long tail of more budget-minded travelers have been ignored and left with suboptimal tools for way too long. We’re changing that.

GIF OF THE MONTH: finding product-market fit.

The Best Update Ever from Hitlist (#15)

Last month’s focus was fundraising. The most valuable part of this process is, well, the money, but also the feedback from people who have been around the block a few more times than we. Some things we learned:
  • In one investor’s opinion, I’m not autistic enough to be investable #siliconvalleyinsults
  • our conversion metrics are better than several leaders of companies in this industry have ever seen: on average 20% of the people we refer to partners exit to the final booking page
This month’s focus: GROWTH. This is easiest to measure if we focus on one specific metric, so we’ll choose the one that makes us money: exits from our partners. In April, that was 4,233. Some things we could use help with:
  • Accommodations: we’re deciding who to partner with to start offering room booking in Hitlist. To the travelers on this list: what apps do you use to book hotels? To the travel industry people on this list: who have you found easiest to work with? Who offers the best commission structure?
  • Airline/travel rewards providers: We’ve been talking to some airlines about offering points as an incentive for signups (Dropbox/Uber model: get a friend to sign up, and you both get X points to help you get free travel). It’s a great opportunity to get new users in a prime demographic on your loyalty program. As with anything like this, having other offers on the table helps speed up these discussions.  Anyone negotiated partnerships like this before, or know someone I should talk to?
  • Some great press in Business Insider, Inc., Tnooz, and TechCrunch
  • Spoke on the mobile innovation and Artificial Intelligence panels at NY Travel Fest – thanks Roni Weiss, Susan Black, Mike Coletta, and Larry Smith for the invitations/facilitation.
  • Speaking of AI, we attempted to use Amazon’s new Machine Learning algorithm to build a recommendation hack for TechCrunch Disrupt’s hackathon, resulting in Elsewhere. I also star as Token Woman in the video coverage.
  • Shipped v2.8 (introducing curated lists and filtering by things like Beach, Islands, Caribbean, Middle East). Julia and Roberto are ‘hilarious, genius, and on point.‘ We knew that, now you do too.
  • Begun work on Hitlist 3.0, a major redesign to facilitate user/partner generated content. Messing with something that’s working is always scary, but as any traveler knows, venturing into the unknown usually brings great reward. Sneak peek here.
  • someone wrote offering to let me buy for a ‘fair price’. Good idea/bad idea?
  • Some of you have known us long enough to remember the days of TripCommon, the startup Timo, Luka and I worked on before pivoting to Hitlist. We built some awesome stuff but ultimately shelved the idea. This month our friends over at Teleport released Flock, which is pretty much what we dreamed TripCommon would be. We’re happy the idea has truly come to life and, by implication, that we were not crazy.
Why are we doing this? 
Travelers are more likely to trust others and negotiate rather than resort to conflict, according to this paper by researchers from INSEAD, Kellogg, and Columbia. We aim to get everyone traveling more, and truly, honestly, believe that this will help solve some of the world’s worst problems.


It’s finally spring in New York. Celebrate!

dancing line man

Hitlist update – March Madness edition

When you’re building something that is truly new, it’s kind of impossible to measure success. However good your metrics are, they could always be better. There’s no competitor to measure yourself against. I often wonder: how the hell are we really doing?

That’s when it’s nice to get a message from one of the most successful travel founders of the last twenty years saying he thinks we’re ‘the most creative product team in the category right now.’

Which is great, but now we get to face the real music and see what the market thinks we’re worth. You know what that means.

I’ve spent the last month ‘taking the pulse’ of the market and we’re happy to have added a few strategic investors to the cap table: Gary Waldman, founder of Sidestep (sold to Kayak), and exec/board at XOJet and JetSuite; and Katrin Buckenmaier, founder of Travador (currently kicking ass in Europe) and formerly VP of Strategy & Acquisitions for Warner Music International. If you want to help out:
  • Introductions: if you know people who you really think we should be talking to, please let me know.
  • We won ‘Demolish Day’, a pitch competition at SXSW judged by the CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association and surprise guest Eric Ries, author of the Lean Startup. (for non-techies: both these guys are kind of a big deal). Prize includes a booth at CES next year in Vegas, which is a long way off but I am taking applications for booth bros now. HUGE thanks to Adam Berk for the opportunity to pitch.
  • Last month’s focus was people. First, there was so much amazing advice about forming boards that I compiled a lot of it into a blog post so others can benefit from it as well (as always, please share if you think it’s useful, and thanks Mattermark for featuring it in Mattermark Daily last Thursday). We’re in the final stages of putting ours together and I’ll announce it soon.
  • Hitlist was highlighted for its excellent mobile design in presentations by TripAdvisor and HotelTonight at ITB Berlin and the DC Travel Show, respectively. We love and use their apps so it’s an honor to see them tracking us as well.
  • We’ve added Chris Piazza to the team on the operations/finance side of things. Chris was a cofounder of WeHostels, a pioneer in the mobile travel space which sold to Student Universe in 2014.
  • About a week ago we released our ‘Trips’ feature, which shows you pre-filtered lists of flights around specific themes, like Coachella (‘for lovers of Indie music and crop tops’), or European getaways (7-10 day trips to Europe leaving Friday/Saturday/Sunday to minimize the # of days off you have to take). A lot of thought and testing has gone into it so far so please do check it out and if you have any feedback send it over. Julia also made a mesmerizing video to illustrate its power.

WHY ARE WE DOING THIS? Because pretty much everything in this 3 year old McKinsey study still rings true: ‘The travel sector has reached the next phase in its evolution, and some creative destruction is necessary. Many solutions already exist, but the sector’s myopic focus on costs rather than returns their implementation.’ We believe that by truly focusing on the customer, we can activate more travel more efficiently and raise returns across the board (measured both in positive experiences for people + ROI for providers).

GIF OF THE MONTH: this is an image of Obama’s head on Beyonce’s body dancing to ‘Single Ladies’ on a rotating pizza disco floor with fireworks in the background, because human creativity knows no bounds.
obama beyonce pizza