Darden Graduates’ Hotelicopter Is A Company To Watch, New Industry Report Says
2005 Darden graduates Adam Healey and Charles Seilheimer just added another endorsement to the long list of plaudits for their hotel reservation search engine business, Hotelicopter, begun when they were taking classes at Darden.
A new Piper Jaffray industry report names Hotelicopter (based locally, with offices on the Downtown Mall and a complement of programmers in India) as one of the up and coming companies to watch in the $80 billion online travel booking industry.
This is the latest in a long string of recognitions started shortly after leaving Darden, when they won the 2006 U.Va. Business Plan Competition. Next, they spent some time refining things with support from Darden’s Batten Business Incubator, before generating plenty of media coverage (NPR, Washington Post, MSNBC, USA Today, etc.) of their new meta-search approach to online hotel booking, targeting slightly younger travelers with easy customizing of search results (only hotels within certain blocks or neighborhoods of a city, only those with Internet access, a pool, fitness equipment, etc.) and a social networking component (and Facebook tie-in) so that fellow travelers can share the skinny on given accommodations.
Much of that coverage happened while they were operating under the name VibeAgent.com, before re-branding themselves this April in a viral marketing coup — an April Fool’s stunt that featured some skillfully animated pictures and video of a giant helicopter containing ‘hotel rooms.’ The Interwebs were abuzz before the hoax was revealed, landing another round of good exposure. (Their new logo and tagline, “Elevate your search” play on the helicopter theme.)
The new Piper Jaffrey report is a different kind of validation. Their market niche is crowded with competitors and changing rapidly, so they haven’t yet left the danger zone of startup business peril, but with several million dollars of venture funding already behind them, and a favorable outlook according to Piper Jaffrey, they won’t be folding up the rotor blades anytime soon.