Hipmunk, the flight-and-hotel-search startup known for its perky chipmunk mascot and for ranking travel options by "agony," is being acquired by corporate-travel giant Concur. The deal--set to close in October for an unknown sum--has already been called a logical one by observers, who say integration of the site's technologies will help bolster Concur's search functions.

Concur, a travel and expense-tracking company that was purchased by SAP in 2014 for $8.4 billion, has previously made acquisitions designed to liven up its utility, including that of TripIt in 2011. And it's easy to point to a trend in consolidation in travel companies, ever since the massive $1.8 billion acquisition of Kayak by Priceline in 2012.

But something else was at play here. Perhaps it was time for Hipmunk to let go.

Last summer, Hipmunk CTO Steve Huffman left the travel-search startup he'd co-founded in 2010 to return to Reddit--which he'd co-founded in 2005. The announcement was abrupt and the move was swift; Huffman told his co-founder Adam Goldstein about his decision the same week he stepped back into Reddit's office and took the title of chief executive.

Subsequently, interesting things started to happen. Within months, other employees of Hipmunk started to make the jump to Reddit, including "chief scientist" Chris Slowe, a level-headed problem-solving whiz and physics Ph.D. Engineering Manager Phillip Aquilina followed, according to his LinkedIn profile. At least three additional Hipmunk engineers have joined Reddit since January.

It's worth noting that Hipmunk and Reddit have always been a bit fluid in terms of employee bleed. (Consider that Slowe was Reddit's first employee, and has been one of Huffman's closest friends through the years.) For years, while Hipmunk grew, it poached Reddit employees regularly. The fact that the opposite has been true for more than six months now was a sure sign change was brewing for Hipmunk.

Also: The travel-search company, which had raised a total of $55 million in venture-capital investment, had been rumored to be fundraising this past spring--albeit, per the chatter, a down round. And sure enough: It only brought in $5.75 million in that attempt.

But according to what was announced this week, the team is still about 50-strong at Hipmunk, and it seems that most will stay on after the acquisition--including chief executive Goldstein. In a statement, Goldstein said "six years ago, our vision was to take the agony out of travel and travel planning. This combination means we can do an even better job for frequent travelers, in both their leisure and business travel." (Goldstein did not respond to a request for comment.)

Tim MacDonald, Concur's executive vice president of travel, said this week that the company will maintain the Hipmunk brand, in hopes of learning from consumer behavior in search from it. That means Hipmunk.com is here to stay--at least for now.

Published on: Sep 14, 2016