Booking personal flights has never been easier. In just a few clicks you can buy your ticket and if you are early enough can even get that aisle seat you “need”. Business trip booking is a much different story. There are often bigger complications and you need more than the run of the mill flight booking service. The cure to this problem may just lie in 30SecondsToFly. The flight management’s texting service, Claire, gives you instant results as well as lets you send a simple text instead of having to busy your life filtering out what you don’t want. With two strong and experienced founders this company is bound to take flight.
We spoke with cofounder Felicia Schneiderhan about why your next flight should be booked by 30SecondsToFly as well as what happened that prompted the company to be made.
Tell us about the product or service.
We believe in conversational B2B software with a data-driven core.
Claire is a light corporate travel management solution powered by A.I. Our software interfaces with business travelers via conversational UI – they book travel by sending a simple SMS or Slack message to Claire, our bot. On the back, each company configures Claire via a simple and intuitive control panel from which admins manage their business travelers, adjust travel policies with just a few clicks and access the company’s travel analytics.
How is it different?
Claire is different from travel agencies (eg Amex) and corporate booking tools (eg Concur) in that we provide a high degree of personalization while large parts of our processes are automated. Our core is a machine learning technology that gets to know its users over time and is integrated with a plethora of different service solutions. We differentiate from other intelligent travel assistants by being strictly B2B, because we believe that there is an underserved market whose problems our product can solve.
What market are you attacking and how big is it?
At first, we are attacking the travel management market of small and medium-sized businesses, which is estimated to be around $36 billion in the US. Most of these companies do not manage their travel. Their employees often book their trips on leisure booking sites. Thus, these SMBs do not have any insight into travel patterns, policy compliance and alike. Corporate travel is a black box for them, which is why they waste opportunities to save time and money.
What is the business model?
We have several different revenue streams. On the one hand, we offer subscription plans to our corporate customers. On the other hand, we are earning through commissions on travel products such as airfares, hotels and cars.
What inspired the business?
Riccardo and I have been working together for more than two years now, since we met at a Fulbright seminar. Both of us had founded companies before so it was a no brainer for us to join forces and build something extremely scalable. The trigger was when Riccardo called me to complain about a flight he wanted to book between Singapore and Hanoi, a transaction, which took him a day to complete. Imagine he would have had a booking tool that understood Riccardo’s situation and got the job done!! Riccardo then coded the very first NLP desktop version of Claire and we observed how users interacted with the software. After a close examination of the industry we clearly saw that pain points in the B2B travel market were bigger and market structures were more antiquated and needed to be challenged.
Why is travel booking poised as an industry to be integrating AI?
In the corporate travel market, the existing players holding most of the market power (still!) are transaction-based service agencies. When technology companies entered the space two decades ago, booking travel became cheaper, because travelers would now book their trips themselves. The next big transformation of the industry will be centered around big data, machine learning and deep integration. The result will be service automation that provides travelers with the service of a travel agency for the price and with the accessibility of a booking tool.
What are the milestones that you plan to achieve within six months?
We will start a closed beta with a handful of select businesses in the beginning of April. We will take a good three months to iterate the product during the pilot. In the summer we will open the technology and slowly start to scale. By the end of the year we hope to have a solid and happy customer base. Also, we are raising our seed round at the moment, which we will close in the next few weeks.
What is the one piece of startup advice that you never got?
Use geography to your advantage! In September last year, despite many skeptics, Riccardo and I decided to move to Thailand for three months to build an in-house dev team there. This was one of the best decisions. Now we maintain an office there with 8 full-time team members who are extremely passionate and account for our current development speed and quality while the business is maintaining a very low burn rate.
If you could be put in touch with anyone in the New York community who would it be and why?
Alexis Ohanian for the incredible ride he has been on, plus I want to ask him everything about his vision for Hipmunk. I admire Joanne Wilson for her strong support of women in leadership roles.
Why did you launch in New York?
Riccardo and I have been working out of the NYU Incubator in Soho on and off for two years. Our network is centered in NYC. At the same time it is an epicenter for business travel and both of us absolutely love it here.
What’s your favorite restaurant in the city?
That’s the most difficult question of them all! I love Ethiopian food but I haven’t found my go-to-place here yet. For the best burger, maybe the Rabbit Hole in Williamsburg.