12/15/2016 08:32 EST | Updated 12/16/2017 00:12 EST

Quebec-based travel app eyes international market with $82-million investment

MONTREAL — After watching its popularity soar with travellers, the makers of flight-booking app Hopper have announced they will triple their workforce to more than 120 employees in the next year to facilitate international expansion.

Unlike industry giants Priceline and Expedia, the Montreal-based company has found success by choosing to forgo a web presence in favour of a mobile-only approach.

The company prides itself on being able to predict the price of flights up to a year in advance with 95 per cent accuracy by using algorithms capable of analyzing massive amounts of data.

"There's a certain anxiety that comes with buying plane tickets," co-founder and CEO Frederic Lalonde told The Canadian Press in a phone interview from New York.

Depending on the price of tickets when a search is made, Hopper advises users whether they should buy immediately or wait for a better price.

The application will then send the user a notification when the flight is at its lowest predicted price.

To accelerate its growth, Hopper has just secured $82 million in financing, including $40 million from Quebec's pension fund manager, the Caisse de depot.

"The company has a competitive advantage over other players in the sector, who are mostly present online," said Thomas Birch, the Caisse's senior director of fund management.

Hopper is now the second most popular travel application in the United States, according to Lalonde. It gained 10 million users in its first 18 months — a number Lalonde hopes to increase three to five times over by the end of 2017.

Hopper says it serves as an intermediary in the purchase of $1 million worth of plane tickets every day.

The company hopes to add another 20 countries to the list of 126 it already serves. 

The funding will help the company invest in its data analysis infrastructure and create a presence in countries where sales are high.

"The most surprising statistic is that a quarter of our sales are for tickets that originate outside the United States," Lalonde said.

Hopper's profits come mainly from compensation from the airlines, as well as a $5 charge for each ticket sold.

"The application adds so much value that people save an average of $50 per ticket," Lalonde said. "Consumers are very happy to pay the $5."

In the future, Lalonde says he isn't ruling out expanding into the lodging market, which he  says is compatible with its current business model. Launching a website to compete with the big players, however, is out of the question.

The company's 40 employees are currently divided between Montreal and Boston, where Hopper set up in 2012 to be closer to the technological hub that has grown around the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

But Lalonde says the bulk of the new jobs will be in Montreal, where the company's data bank is kept.

Hopper has already expanded its office space in the city's Mile End district and Lalonde says there will be a "marked" increase in the number of employees in the next year.