TLabs Showcase on travel startups featuring Israel-based free-text travel search technology provider Evature.
Who and what are you (including personnel and backgrounds)?
Evature is a technology start up founded in the beginning of 2009 with the goal of developing software capable of understanding travel requests with the quality and precision of a human agent (Expert Virtual Agent – EVA). Company founders are Tal Weiss and Barry Volinskey, each with over 15 years of experience at various high-tech industry positions.
What financial support did you have to launch the business?
For over a year we were completely self funded. We have since received a small angel investment.
What problem are you trying to solve?
We use free-text search to navigate the internet. Google leads the way in general purpose search by offering a clean and intuitive search query text-box.
Many other top-tier websites (e.g. Amazon, Facebook) offer Free Text Search as well, yet none of the major travel websites do.
Travel websites use traditional forms to enter search queries, utilizing drop down menus, radio buttons and check-boxes. Its equivalent to shopping for a TV on the internet and clicking Electronics/TVs/LED/Sony/40-50 inch instead of simply typing "Sony 45” LED" and let the search engine figure out the rest.
The problem grows more acute browsing the web using a smartphone.
The problem is that regular keyword based search engines cannot be used to comprehend and effectively handle "travel language", so off the shelf search engines cannot be used.
Evature enables the online travel industry to offer Free-Text search to its customers.
Based on a unique and proprietary algorithmic engine EVA understands complex travel queries with semantic precision that is not possible through keyword search methods.
Processing of queries as simple as "rome next Monday for 2 nights", as complex as "return flights from Boston to NY next Monday, landing in JFK before 10am" or as obscure as "romantic Island vacation in the summer" is now possible.
Describe the business, core products and services?
Evature offers a web service enabling the translation of travel related free-text queries to structured information. We have two ways of delivering the service.
The first and the more flexible is an API, documented here. The second option is for us to do all the integration work providing the customer with a widget, which can be integrated into a web site by adding a single line of code.
Who are your key customers and users at launch?
Our customers are travel web sites. We currently work with sites that market hotels, vacation packages and flights. We have recently developed a ski-rental language module for our customers, and are planning to develop a car rental language module in the near future.
Did you have customers validate your idea before investors?
We firmly believe that developing a successful product requires customers that can guide the company through various product decisions.
We were fortunate to work with an excellent alpha customer from a very early stage, helping us develop the product to maturity. Since then we have several other customers, each helping to improve and evolve our service.
What is the business AND revenue model, strategy for profitability?
Evature offers a web service and charges customers a monthly fee based on the quota of queries they require.
SWOT analysis – strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats?
- A unique service based on cutting edge innovative technology.
- Lack of experience in the travel industry for which we compensate by learning from our customers.
- Over $100 billion online travel market with fierce competition looking for differentiation, improved customer satisfaction, and ways to increase conversion rates. The mobile market represents another great opportunity for us.
Who advised you your idea isn't going to be successful and why didn't you listen to them?
- Big search engines to be able to provide a similar service bypassing the travel web sites.
At the early stages, before we had our technology implemented, we got constantly challenged about the feasibility of a software engine to be able to handle the complexity of travel language.
As our system rolled out and we demonstrated the working technology, we got questioned whether or not people really need free-text search.
We believe - and have found it to be true from actual user behaviour at customer sites - that people are now well trained by Google to state what you want to search for – and get solutions, and given the opportunity, many would do the same in travel space..
What is your success metric 12 months from now?
Profitability and high level of customer satisfaction.
Here is a clip:
NB: TLabs Showcase is part of the wider TLabs project from Tnooz.