Irish duo among Boston TechStars

A Spanish mobile booking company with two Irishmen at the helm has been accepted into one of the most prestigious accelerator programmes in the US, just months after landing a major new investment.

Hot Hotels founders Jose Manuel Fernandez, Adelaida Muriel, and Irishmen Conor O'Connor and Joe Haslam.

Since being launched in 2012, Hot Hotels, which employs 15 people, has grown into Europe’s largest mobile-only same-week hotel booking app from its base in Marbella in southern Spain.

The company was founded by chief executive Conor O’Connor and chairman Joe Haslam, along with two Spanish colleagues. It will take part in the prestigious TechStars Boston programme over the course of the summer with the crucial demo day bringing the experience to a close at the beginning of September.

Ranked the second-best accelerator in the US, TechStars is an opportunity that Mr Haslam says will be challenging but which he’s relishing nonetheless.

“Getting into TechStars in Boston has changed everything for us. There are no ‘wantapreneurs’ in there and any flaws in your business model are quickly exposed,” he said.

The Hot Hotels app acts as a facilitator for travellers looking for a last-minute hotel room in any one of 326 cities across 55 countries.

With big players such as Expedia and Booking.com well established in the hotel market, Hot Hotels’ advantage lies in its unique mobile-only focus which it says operates with the same level of simplicity as Hailo does in the taxi market.

The Boston trip has opened a world of opportunity for the two Irish founders and their Spanish counterparts, chief operations officer Adelaida Muriel Galet and chief technology officer Gabriel Ortega, with the US and Latin America seen as potential new markets.

Its acceptance into the TechStars programme comes hot on the heels of landing a second round of funding just months after a $1m seed round.

Having seen its early success, a group of curious Cork investors looking to branch into other investment options got in touch to put up another tranche of funding.

“After Hot announced our $1m seed round in April 2014, we got a phone call from an investment syndicate in Cork looking to get out of overseas property and into technology,” said Mr Haslam. “They flew down to Marbella and we did a deal for an investment of about €500,000. Knowing people back in Cork helped in doing a deal quickly.”

The €500,000 was doubled from other sources to give the team the platform that has propelled them to the cusp of their next international expansion — one which has its roots firmly in Ireland.

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