Austin-based WayBlazer recently announced a $5 million Series A funding round. Founded in early 2014, the company has been focused to-date on gaining traction with customers and perfecting its innovative personalized travel discovery and planning system. The platform uses IBM’s Watson technology to deliver advice and insights to travelers based on their needs and interests, from dreaming up a trip to making the purchase. The Entrepreneurs’ Fund led the funding round and was joined by IBM and Gobi Partners.
Jeff Webber, managing director at The Entrepreneurs’ Fund, gave the company his vote of confidence in a news release, “We believe that WayBlazer has an excellent vision and great momentum in the travel industry. Their leadership team has what it takes to scale the company quickly to keep up with their growing customer base.”
The team is comprised of seasoned hospitality industry veterans: Terry Jones, who helped found both Travelocity and Kayak.com, serves as chairman and Felix Laboy, former president of Sabre Hospitality Solutions and co-founder of E-site Marketing, serves as CEO.
The use of IBM’s Watson allows WayBlazer to process large amounts of data and make connections between far-flung data points to interact with customers in natural language. Watson’s cognitive computing uses data to learn more about the customer with each interaction, which WayBlazer then uses to solve the current travel planning conundrum of too many choices and not enough clear advice. WayBlazer provides its platform to hotel chains, travel publishers and other businesses that serve travelers.
“WayBlazer is a great example of the breakthrough innovation we have seen from our partners who are building a new class of cognitive computing solutions powered by Watson,” said Stephen Gold, vice president at IBM Watson.
WayBlazer’s ultimate goals are to increase customer satisfaction and improve partnerships with travel service providers by adding more bookings and providing greater revenue. Current partners include two international hotel chains. The Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau is the startup’s first beta customer and uses WayBlazer to help tourists plan their trips to the city.