WayBlazer, the travel cognitive computing startup, lands $5M
IBM is a lead investor in a $5 million Series A funding round for WayBlazer, a travel search and discovery company that licenses Watson cognitive computing technology.
Other investors are The Entrepreneurs’ Fund and Gobi Partners.
WayBlazer, an Austin-based B2B startup, was launched last October under the transitional leadership of Terry Jones. Three months ago, Felix Laboy became CEO.
Laboy told Tnooz that the company, which currently has 15 employees, will use some of the funding to staff up.
WayBlazer has confirmed a couple of major hotel brands as accounts, to be revealed soon.
One of its products is a “cognitive concierge”, which can offer personalized recommendations for activities and restaurants and music events near a property.
The premise is that, if a guest is looking for something to do tomorrow night and it’s going to be raining, he or she will see different results than if they’re looking for something during the day on a sunny day.
A hotel chain can present this itinerary planner as a widget within their own branded mobile app or via a microsite run by the hotel.
In the next month, WayBlazer will also announce how two travel-related publishing brands are using its technologies to more effectively re-purpose their existing content.
The company is updating its technology. This summer, its use as a travel planner on the Visit Austin website will be reloaded onto a revamped platform, for enhanced performance.
An education challenge
Laboy says clients are grasping what WayBlazer can do, but are debating how to apply it most effectively within their organizations.
“As with any new technology, there are always questions. Some of what we’re trying to do is educate our potential customers about what is the value and power of cognitive computing.
In one meeting this spring, one major brand’s senior VP commented that our technology was transformative and game-changing. To me that’s a great stamp of approval on what we do….
In another meeting, a hotel was exploring a variety of use cases. There was a VP of personalization, a VP of content, a VP of e-commerce, and a VP of the loyalty program. That shows how companies are thinking across departments….
The companies that are forward-thinking look at cognitive computing and see it as something they can use in a variety of ways, and not just for a one-off project….
Some companies want help with conversion. Others are more interested in helping with the guest experience….
Conversion can be improved because we provide more qualified leads. If you’re a consumer who is searching on a hotel chain’s website, you have to know what city or country you’re going to, the dates, and type of hotel.
With our technology, a consumer will instead be able to type in a natural language search, such as, “looking for a romantic getaway with my wife in California.” Our technology will automatically serve relevant results that only fit that criteria, based on key concepts and time frames.
If the consumer includes a date range or a room type, we’ll filter accordingly….
As you, the consumer, continue to use the tool, we create a cognitive persona about you based on your searches, to give you even more specific searches as you ask additional questions in the future….
Because you are receiving a more refined list of possibilites, the likelier you are to convert….
What’s great is that we haven’t had any issues in being able to ingest content for analysis in whatever manner clients have it today, as long as they have licensed rights to use the content….
Getting an investment from a marquee company like IBM is also validating.”
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