Secretive travel tech startup Blade buys hopOn to help build its product

Paul English speaks to colleagues at his startup incubator, Blade.
Paul English speaks to colleagues at his startup incubator, Blade.

We’re getting a few more clues about what Blade Travel, the new company from Kayak cofounder Paul English, might be up to.

Today, Boston-based Blade said that it recently acquired hopOn, a San Francisco-based startup that built a travel-booking smartphone app.

English said Blade bought hopOn with a combination of cash and stock, but he declined to reveal the price. hopOn announced this spring that it raised a $750,000 seed investment led by New Enterprise Associates. Constant Contact chief executive Gail Goodman is also listed as an investor.

Blade said two hopOn employees — cofounder Doug Morgan and software engineer Ankit Desai — have moved to Boston and “are now on the core Blade team helping to build our new travel company.”

While the hopOn app is being discontinued, some of its booking technology will be incorporated into Blade’s eventual travel-booking features, English said.

Morgan said hopOn was looking into raising more investment cash when its executives were met with English. “We met his team, and his pedigree was amazing. And now we’re here,” Morgan said.

English founded Blade in mid-2014 with two other Kayak veterans, Bill O’Donnell and Paul Schwenk. Blade initially was an investment vehicle for consumer-tech startups, but it has since become a new travel startup.

Kayak went public in July 2012 and was acquired by Priceline that November for $1.8 billion. Since founding Blade, English has been vocal about building more consumer-focused technology companies in the Boston area.

Last week, the company started dropping a few more hints about what it’s working on: Blade Travel (it’s just a placeholder name) has about 25 people working in its Fort Point offices, building a travel tech product that it says is more suited to the mobile era.

“Travel web sites today aren’t that different than Travelocity or Expedia from 1997,” O’Donnell wrote.

hopOn was based on a similar philosophy. The app attempted to combine flight, hotel, and restaurant booking into a single program, which also offered instant messaging for people traveling together and the ability to split costs between travelers.

“A lot of travel has looked the same for the last 10 years,” Morgan said. “Planning and booking is a pretty terrible experience.”

Updated 12:48 p.m. with additional detail, quotes.