This NYC Startup Will Tell You Where to Go and How to Get There on the Cheap


optimal fares

Anyone who loves to travel or lives to travel has a hitlist of places they’d like to travel to. And if you can be flexible, Hitlist finds you the best possible fares.

Here’s how it works: you can build your list manually or choose from recommended destinations by syncing with your Facebook friends and see what they’ve been and what they recommend. Then you sit back and let Hitlist do the heavy lifting: the app will scan millions of fares and bring you the best itineraries to help you know the optimal time to travel.

You can also pick the best airport for you, specify whether you want to travel only on weekends or whenever, make your hitlist private or public, and set a budget for your tickets.

In other words, unlike other travel sites where you have to give specific dates, you can be more flexible and Hitlist will find you the trips you want at the optimal prices, then send you alerts when the best fares to the places you want to visit come up.And you’re good to go!

And seriously, why should you do all the searching when technology can do it for you?

Cofounder and world traveler Gillian Morris tells us what else the company has planned.

Tell us about the service.

Hitlist is a mobile platform that helps users create a list of places they want to go, and then alerts them when we find cheap flights to those locations.  We connect with your social media, so you can see where your friends live and what cities they have on their hitlist. In our newest update, “Trips,” we show you flights to different events from around the world, including concerts, festivals and sporting events. We want to inspire and enable our users to travel more by making it easier than ever to find the best flight deals.

How is it different?

Traditional travel sites have very strict search options. If you have a very specific timeframe in mind, then booking on existing travel sites is effective. Most travelers, however, have some flexibility and are looking for a deal. In this case, travel sites make it very difficult to have flexible search options – you can’t do a search for ‘a 7 to 10 day trip to Europe in July or August,’ for example. Hitlist tracks the cities on your list and lets you know when there are deals to those cities, and we’re the most customizable option out there so, you never get spammed. We also let you know about great upcoming deals that might not be on your list. We want to inspire our users to see a great deal and book a flight on the spot.

What market are you attacking and how big is it?

We’d like to own the consumer travel journey from inspiration to booking. If you look at just booking commissions, it’s a ~$50bn market ($524bn global online travel sales in 2012, according to Euromonitor, of which an estimated 10% go to agents). When you get into inspiration and search as well, the numbers get pretty big.

What is the business model?

We’re a standard affiliate model. Currently, we’re focused on affiliate revenue from flights. However, there is room for hotels and other ancillaries. As we develop our ‘Explore’ functions further, there will be potential to monetize that angle with a paid placement in search results, similar to what you see in Google or Yelp.

What are the most popular destinations, that you’ve noticed so far?

Gillian Morris Hitlist head shot

Gillian Morris

By nature of being a tech startup New York and San Francisco are two of our most popular cities. In Europe, London, Paris and Amsterdam are on a majority of hitlists. We actually started different twitters for New York, San Francisco and London, our three most popular cities, just to tweet out amazing deals from those cities (@Hitlist_NYC, @Hitlist_SF and @Hitlist_Lon).

What are the milestones that you plan to achieve within six months?

We have some amazing new features being launched in the next few weeks. We just launched a feature called ‘Trips,’ where we pick events from around the world – festivals, sporting events, concerts and getaways – and let you know about the dates of the events and flights to the events. Our next feature will involve curated lists that range from the best beaches in the world to the best foodie destinations. These new features will allow us to partner with many different kinds of brands and media. These innovations will also make the whole process of travel inspiration and booking even easier and more exciting for our users.

If you could be put in touch with one investor in the New York community who would it be and why?

Shana Fisher. She generally keeps a low profile, but she has an amazing track record and I’d love her feedback on Hitlist. I’ve talked to her team and seen her speak, but never met in person.

Why did you launch in New York?

We actually started in Istanbul, Turkey, where one of the founders (Gillian Morris) was living at the time. We moved to SF and then to New York for three main reasons. First, we see tremendous benefits in being part of a diverse community where those of us in tech are the minority: it helps keep you aware of where the real pain points are and what the public, not just the Silicon Valley echo chamber, needs. Secondly, the startup community here is much more supportive of early stage founders – in San Francisco there are just so many, it’s easy to get lost in the mix. In New York you can access some of the top investors, even if you don’t have a Stanford/Facebook/

Google pedigree. Thirdly, some of our team are based in Europe and being six hours away rather than nine hours makes a big difference.

What’s the #1 New York bar on your hitlist?

We have so many but with the warm weather right now, it has to be the Frying Pan. It’s really easy to make new friends and who doesn’t love being on the water?


About the author: AlleyWatch

AlleyWatch is the destination for startup news; opinions and reviews; investment and product information; events reported, experienced, seen, heard and overheard here in New York. But it’s who we are that makes us different: we’re the writers and the entrepreneurs; the investors and the mentors; the lawyers and the marketers; the realtors and the recruiters – the people who work in the industry.

You are seconds away from signing up for the hottest list in New York Tech!

Join the millions and keep up with the stories shaping entrepreneurship. Sign up today.