Germany-based startup Comtravo says it's not looking to revolutionise business travel, it wants to simplify it.
The company, which has just received €8 million in funding, uses Natural Language Processing to turn a requests via email into a query.
The system then uses preferences, past booking behaviour and what peers have booked to return the best options to the traveller.
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Q&A with CEO Michael Riegel:
What problem does your business solve?
Comtravo makes booking and managing business trips as simple as sending an email. Comtravo’s software translates text requests such as email into structured queries using natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning technology to provide the best travel options for individual travelers based on specified preferences as well as previous booking behavior. This way, users can quickly book personalized offers with one click directly in the email.
Names of founders, their management roles, and number of full-time paid staff?
Comtravo was founded in July 2015 by:
Michael Riegel - CEO
Jannik Neumann - COO
Marko Schilde - CTO
Slobodan Utvic - Lead Architect
By now, Comtravo is employing a team of 45 people, half of it focusing on its AI technology and the product.
Comtravo has just closed Series A funding of €8.5 million. The round was led by Sweden-based venture capital fund Creandum and Berlin-based venture capital firm Project A.
Other investors include the founders and managers of Trivago, Momondo, Cheapflights, Ratetiger or Airbnb.
Comtravo charges a simple per booking fee that ranges between 7 - 15 EUR based on volume. That’s it - no other hidden fees.
Why do you think the pain point you’re solving is painful enough that customers are willing to pay for your solution?
In general customers are already right now paying for a similar service. In that way we are not changing the market - however, we are simplifying the whole fee structure significantly.
In the end with comtravo you are not only paying significantly less than with traditional agencies thanks to the degree of automation, while at the same time our customers get a more convenient product.
More than 200 companies are already actively using comtravo for their travel; our clients are still mainly headquartered in Germany but in general very international, often with offices worldwide, examples are Hellofresh, Viessmann or Fexcom.
Advisors include e.g. the former Europe CEO of Sabre.
This is what the investors say:
Simon Schmincke, principal at Creandum:
"We were immediately convinced by the idea and the implementation. Much of the innovation that already exists in the leisure travel market is still missing in the business travel market. Comtravo has the strongest team in artificial intelligence and travel technology to revolutionize business travel."
Comtravo brings its artificial intelligence-based concept at a time when AI is a hot topic.
There is huge interest in the area - Google has been steadily buying up companies in the AI space for the past three years.
In travel, there is also lots of excitement in the area, with much of it centred on Facebook Messenger and chatbots.
Comtravo has already gained some traction with more than 200 companies already using its service.
It's likely to be attractive to second tier companies who haven't found a system that works for them or still book travel manually and would like some automation,
If the system can respond to a traveller's request in an intelligent way and fulfill the expense management and spend reporting requirements in the background, then it will catch on.
But, business travel is complex. There's no doubt that younger folk coming into jobs want easy-to-use systems and existing technology doesn't cut it.
But the travel policy issues, spend and duty of care implications also have to be taken into consideration so there are compromises to be made, on both sides.
Image by William Iven