DigitalK Leaders | 5 questions with Joost Ouwerkerk, CTO & Co-founder, Hopper
Digital|K Leaders invites key speakers to share their thoughts on digital transformation. Today our questions answers Joost Ouwerkerk - Co-founder and CTO, Hopper. Since its launch in 2015, Hopper has become one of the fastest growing travel apps ever with over 30 million installs to date. It is now the most downloaded travel booking app in North America. The app has received accolades such as Fast Company’s Most Innovative Company in Travel 2018, the Google Play Award for Standout Startup of 2016, and Apple’s App Store Best of 2015.
How do you see the world in 5 years?
I expect that the technologies that we collectively call artificial intelligence will drive many of the changes in our everyday lives over the coming years. From self-driving cars to virtual assistants to smarter devices in our homes, humans will continue to find new ways to apply data and AI to simplify our everyday lives. And we will start to take many of these technologies for granted as we come to depend on them.
How much “digital” is there in your daily life?
Like most people, my daily life revolves around my smartphone. Much of my work and leisure is mediated by digital devices. I communicate with my family, my colleagues, and my children’s teachers with apps. I control the thermostats and lights in my house with an app. I shop with an app, I order food with an app, and I call a taxi with an app. But I’m finding it increasingly important to put the phone away and engage with the real world, spend time face-to-face in the office and at home, and to get out outside, into nature, off the grid. The digital world is empowering and exciting, but it can also be dehumanizing. As technology innovators, it’s critical we remain conscious of that.
Is “digital” a threat or an opportunity? Why?
Of course it is both, like all human ingenuity since the dawn of humanity. Technology is not inherently good or bad, but its application can be both. There is an inevitability to it, though. Once a technology is discovered, it cannot be undiscovered, and so we have a certain responsibility to direct its application, which raises all kinds of ethical and moral questions. We’ve all seen from the micro to the macro –from our personal lives to global politics– how digital technology can be at once liberating and oppressive. At Hopper, we certainly want to be a force for good, using technology to make people’s lives easier and better, by enabling travel, by empowering consumers with information. For us it is absolutely an opportunity, an opportunity to improve our lives.
How is Hopper changing the market?
Technology is evolving, and Hopper is pushing the online travel industry to adapt. Specifically, we’re focused on applying mobile and AI technology to make travel planning and booking smarter. Because we’re mobile-only, we’re engaging our users very differently than a traditional web-based travel site. Mobile devices encourage a new kind of interaction. We send push notifications with price updates and recommendations about whether to buy or wait, taking away the stress of constantly checking flight and hotel prices on many different websites. Building a relationship over time with each customer, Hopper uses deep historical data and predictive analytics to suggest trip ideas and recommend dates and destinations that are unique to each customer’s interests and intent.
What's behind the success of Hopper?
We are a data-driven company; our strategic decisions are determined by what the data tells us. We didn’t plan to be a travel prediction and booking app, but over time our path became clear. I think we’re very lucky to have assembled such an incredible, smart team. I’m inspired every day by the people I work with. They keep the company driving forward and innovating every day. Hopper has had to adapt and pivot many times, learning from our mistakes, learning from our customers, learning from the market. And that takes incredible agility and resilience.