Toronto-based SnapTravel, which allows users to search and book hotels via Facebook Messenger and SMS, has secured a Series A funding round worth $8 million, led by iNovia.
The funding will be used to "double down on technology and to fuel growth."
SnapTravel launched on Facebook Messenger just over a year ago and has generated more than $1 million in revenues so far. At this year's Facebook developers' conference f8 it announced a chat extension to its Facebook offer. It is also working with Viber.
The business uses a combination of natural language processing and machine learning to automate search queries and bookings, with a team of human agents on hand 24/7 when needed.
Hotels are sourced either direct with the property or via partners such as Expedia, booking.com. Amadeus and Sabre.
Its statement said that existing investors Lightbank, BeePartners and Hedgewood took part in the Series A, with Expedia Inc board member Peter Kern also joining as a strategic investor.
SnapTravel was founded by "repeat tech entrepreneurs" Hussein Fazal and Henry Shi. Fazal sold his Facebook advertising business AdParlor to AdKnowledge, while Shi developed college-campus social site uMentioned and was an engineer at Google.
Fazal has written a detailed "how we got to where we are" post for Medium, in which he reveals, among other things, the importance of continuous testing, referencing booking.com as an example. He said:
"Because chatbots are such a new space with new user behaviors, we are not opinionated about product features. Instead, we let the data and customer interactions guide us towards building the best experience over chat.
"Similar to Booking.com, we have invested in internal tools that allow us to run hundreds of tests in parallel, anything from messaging frequency, tone and length to web UI fonts, colors and interactions."