Whispr launched last year to free up frontline staff from airlines and hospitality paper-based processes with its voice guidance platform.
The company was recently accepted into IAG's Hangar 51 accelerator and has begun work with maintenance staff at Spain flag carrier, Iberia.
Describe both the business and technology aspects of your startup.
Whispr exists to bring process alive for workers on their feet around the world. Our voice guidance platform is designed to help frontline workers be eyes‐up and hands‐free to carry out manual tasks more effectively – from carrying out aircraft inspections and repair work to cleaning a hotel room or office.
80% of the world’s working population are on their feet and while we are more connected than ever before, frontline businesses are still relying on unchanged methods – namely the printed checklist – to do their jobs. This is no longer fit for purpose.
Built on Natural Language Processing and AI, Whispr’s application literally whispers instructions and smart checklists into workers’ ears as they do their jobs ensuring processes are adhered to correctly.
Users can also interact verbally with the app to confirm when work has been completed or to ask questions or seek additional information as and when needed.
Denmark and Ireland
What inspired you to create this company?
My co‐founder, Keith Saft and I each spent over a decade working in frontline businesses.
And although our experience was 30 years apart and in two different continents, we experienced the same problems: no real time access to information, no opportunity to ask questions or seek help when needed – we both felt there had to be a better way to do our jobs more effectively.
These problems still exist today, so we’re going back to our roots to solve them.
Give us your SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis of the company
Although small we are fortunate to have a team of hugely talented and high performing individuals at Whispr. We are also backed by some of Europe’s most respected early stage VC firms, SeedCamp and PreSeed Ventures as well as the venture arm of the world’s leading audio equipment provider, Bose.
The recognition and support we're currently receiving from International Airlines Group as part of our participation in its global accelerator, Hangar 51, is further validation of what we have built at Whispr and will add rocket fuel to our platform.
Our achievements to date ‐ at barely a year old ‐ are testament to the strength of our team.
Frontline workers make up 80% of the world’s workforce yet just 1% of all VC funding goes towards technology for these workers with businesses relying on unchanged methods from half a century ago.
The voice guidance market is very much in its infancy and with billions of frontline workers around the world who deserve far better tools and access to information to help them do their jobs better, the opportunity to transform the way frontline work is done across a number of industries is immense.
Whispr can be applied to a huge variety of use cases and sectors – a big risk for a young business!
The challenge is remaining focussed on our core sectors of hospitality housekeeping, facilities management, aviation maintenance and ground handling to ensure we deliver significant impact and value to our early clients in these areas.
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What are the travel pain points you are trying to alleviate from both the customer and the industry perspective?
The travel industry is run on strict process, yet it is predominantly paper based. Whispr is setting out to solve that and streamline operations by digitising paper‐led processes.
So you've got the product, now how will you get lots of customers?
We are currently working with IAG as part of its global accelerator, Hangar 51. The programme will enable us to finesse our product and its value to the industry.
We’ve been hugely encouraged by the strong interest from both small and large enterprise businesses across the industry. Focussing first on aviation, Whispr will deploy in maintenance and ground handling areas.
Tell us what process you've gone through to establish a genuine need for your company and the size of the addressable market.
Whispr has been in development for 18 months and in deployment since the beginning of the summer.
Since then we have acquired five medium to large enterprise customers including the likes of Radisson Blu, part of the Radisson Hotel Group; lifeX the co‐living business with a portfolio of over 50 apartments in six European cities; and Duuo a Danish facilities services company whose client base includes Chanel, Topshop, Sephora and Joe and The Juice.
These customer engagements are testament to the huge demand for a new way to organize and conduct work for the folks working on their feet.
How and when will you make money?
Whispr is making money today.
As a SaaS platform, Whispr generates revenue from selling licenses to its voice guidance software to medium and large businesses in a number of industries including facilities management and hospitality.
What are the backgrounds and previous achievements of the founding team, and why do you have what it takes to succeed with this business?
I (Hugh O’Flanagan) am CEO of Whispr, responsible for the overall business and securing Whispr’s earliest customers. A salesman at heart, my career to date has been in software and private equity.
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Working as the first sales hire for the EMEA market at tech unicorn, Intercom, I gained a fantastic education in selling software, scaling a sales team, and building revenue from scratch.
I then went on to manage a very considerable private equity portfolio at a boutique fund in Dublin across media, property, aviation and technology.
My co‐founder, Keith is chief product officer at Whispr. Keith has been conceptualising, designing and developing software products for 35 years.
A former professor of computer Science at Carnegie Mellon, he worked on early Palm mobile devices, was the global senior director of product for yahoo.com (their main webpage and main product), and was the director of IOT at Telefonica worldwide.
What's been the most difficult part of founding the business so far?
The most difficult part of any software business is trying to accelerate towards product‐market‐fit as quickly as possible. In other words, developing the product scope to fit exactly the challenges faced by the market(s).
With Whispr, this involves our web app to understand process and our mobile app to deliver a seamless voice‐led experience for the user.
Generally, travel startups face a fairly tough time making an impact ‐ so why are you going to be one of lucky ones?
It’s all about how much you can move the needle. With Whispr, we’re looking to transform the antiquated paper‐led procedures which dominate much of the travel industry and give airlines a competitive advantage while also improving employee productivity and engagement.
By leveraging the latest technologies in natural language processing and artificial intelligence we can guide workers, optimize processes in real time, and better understand the flow of work.
For an industry dominated by people who work on their feet, we now have a technological solution that doesn’t distract workers’ hands and eyes.
Meaning these workers can finally enjoy the impact and benefits of technology that desk workers have had for three decades ‐ a catalyst for astronomical change and impact. That really moves the needle.
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