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Hotel booking site Rocketmiles racks up $6.5 million in new funding

Posted by Scott Kirsner  January 29, 2014 08:00 AM

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Jay Hoffman remembers when he became a fanatical collector of frequent-flier miles. "I was living in Brookline, working for Boston Consulting Group, and traveling a lot to clients," he says. "I spent a lot of time away from my girlfriend, but as a result of earning all these miles, we got to take a pretty great two-week trip to Nepal."

Hoffman's startup, Rocketmiles, is built for everyone else obsessed with racking up miles. It lets travelers book hotel rooms and earn thousands of miles more than they ordinarily would. (Hoffman says a customer can earn as much as 3,000 to 4,000 miles per night.) And the Chicago startup is today announcing a $6.5 million funding round. Some of the money comes from Cambridge-based Atlas Venture, which also provided earlier funding for the company.

"We estimate there are about 25 million people around the world —goal-oriented, Type A people – who like to use points or miles," says Hoffman, who once ran United's Mileage Plus program. "They're often traveling for business, and they like to be a hero in their personal life, and spend the miles for trips with their partner or their family." The appeal for hotels that work with Rocketmiles is that, rather than publicizing steep discounts on their room rates online, they can use those bonus miles as a way to fill rooms that might otherwise sit empty.

"Premium hotels are loathe to do discounts," Hoffman says, "and we tend to bring them a more premium customer. It's not the customer who found an amazing rate online and shows up with their blue cooler, full of drinks and food." The site offers miles for nine different frequent-flier programs, including JetBlue, US Airways, United, and American Airlines.

Hoffman's co-founder is Bjorn Larsen, who serves as chief operating officer and runs a Winchester office of Rocketmiles. The two met while working at Groupon, the e-mail discounting service. Larsen is one of four Rocketmiles employees who work from Winchester, mainly focused on marketing, and he says that number will "probably double in the near-term."

Hoffman and Larsen started the company in 2012, and launched the site to the public last April. Ryan Moore of Atlas Venture supervised the investment for the firm.

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Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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