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How travel startup HomeToGo became the go-to search engine for holiday houses

This interview is part of our series of Growth Stories. We interviewed the founders and CEOs of 20 of the fastest growing startups in Europe. We asked them about their companies, their companies’ culture, and their lives, trying to understand how these three factors played a role in the achievement of such impressive growth.

Founded in 2014, HomeToGo is a German startup whose product is a metasearch engine that allows travelers to compare hundreds of vacation rental websites to find the offer that best suits their needs.

The company has been growing at an impressive clip, breaking even in some European markets at the end of 2017, three years after it was founded. For a VC-fueled startup, this is a very good performance.

My interest in HomeToGo started when I saw that the company joined last year’s edition of Tech5 with a growth in revenue of 5,000 percent over the previous three years.

But it was only when I saw that Chris “Mr. Big” Noth starred in a recent TV ad for the company, that I realized that I needed to reach out to HomeToGo’s CEO and co-founder Patrick Andrae as soon as possible.

Andrae sat down with TNW and discussed the company’s growth and the best ways to save money when you book a trip.

TNW: What did you see in the market that was missing or could have been done better?
Patrick Andrae: The market of vacation rental used to be really fragmented, way more than, for example, the hotel market. Before HomeToGo, there wasn’t a similar metasearch engine. That’s the void that we tried to fill.

What differentiates your product from the competition?
First off, I’d say the sheer quantity of websites that we’re able to aggregate. And secondly, also the complex search technology that we use that combines the data of hundreds of websites sorting out the most relevant results for our users.

We recently also implemented a new feature that allows you to have flexible dates when you search. Our research suggests that you can save up to 35 percent just by being flexible with the period of your travel.

Can you name a fundamental factor that you think really contributed to HomeToGo’s growth?
I think that having a very experienced team with a broad knowledge of tech, travel, and ecommerce played a pivotal role.

My co-founder Wolfgang Heigl founded swoodoo – which is still the market leader for metasearch for flights in German-speaking markets  and sold it afterward. My other co-founder Nils Regge built up an OTA [Online Travel Agency] for vacation rentals, Casamundo. I led the business development at home24 – a European online furniture store.

I believe that was also really important that we already worked together before we started. We shared the same culture and this made everything easier.

How did you manage the steps to become bigger?
From the beginning, we always had a well-structured approach to building our business. We have a strong organizational structure. Everything is well documented and we are able to bank on this solid foundation to grow in a systematic and scalable way.

What’s your company’s goal for the next five years?
We are in a phase of exponential growth. Over the next five years, we will continue our international expansion into new markets while we continue to grow our existing markets.

From a tech perspective, we will introduce even more machine learning into our product to make the user experience even more personalized and dynamic.

What has been your main motivation as a co-founder?
Really solving the problem of the fragmented vacation rental market for the users. No one wants to spend hours searching hundreds of websites for a vacation rental that suits their needs and budget. Making it easy, intuitive, and fast has been my major motivator.

What’s something you’d like to know from the other founders that we’re interviewing in this series of Growth Stories?
I’d like to know what has been the hardest market to break into and why.

In this regard, Koen Thijssen (co-founder Bloomon) asks: “What has been so far the hardest challenge you had to overcome as a company and as a CEO?”
We’re growing so fast that we continuously keep outgrowing our office space. It may sound trivial but it’s a serious practical concern.

Alex Zivoder (CEO GoHenry): “What’s your answer to the famous Peter Thiel’s interview question: ‘Tell me something that’s true but nobody agrees on?’”
That there are many things that are true but nobody agrees on.

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TNW X partners with Dutch unicorn Adyen to organize Tech5 – our annual competition that celebrates Europe’s fastest-growing tech companies. The finale will be held the 24th of May at TNW Conference. Did you already get your ticket

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