WayBlazer closes shop, cites lack of funds and time
07/27/2018|4:55:03 PM|PhocusWire

WayBlazer, which offered artificial intelligence-powered search, discovery and shopping for travel websites and apps, is shutting down.

When asked when the closure goes into effect, CEO Noreen Henry says they have advised customers but have “a few discussions regarding the technology that we are exploring before we take final action.”

In a statement she provided to PhocusWire, Henry explained:

“As you have heard, there are changes taking place, and at this time WayBlazer will be closing its business.

Four years ago, we set out to blaze a new innovative way for users to shop and book travel that leverages the power of AI to understand a traveler’s unique trip intent and offer the most relevant personalized trip recommendations.

Through a visually engaging chat platform, WayBlazer enabled major travel brands to engage customers through voice, messaging and even advertising channels to improve the customer experience and drive increases in conversion.

We’re proud of the products we built, the innovation awards we won and the proof points we drove. But even more so, we’re grateful to the companies who not only believed in the WayBlazer vision but took a leap of faith to partner with us in this journey to transform travel planning. While we have not run out of innovative solutions, unfortunately, we have run out of funding and time.

We truly hope the path that we have blazed together is only the beginning of how travel planning will be done in the future.”

When asked for more details regarding the decision, Henry said:

“Actually our most recent pivot to the conversational commerce platform had gained much interest in the market with successful proof of concepts launched with IHG powering voice search in their mobile app, Emirates Holidays, and Red Roof with our chatbot ads, and we were about to launch Facebook Ad-to-Messenger campaigns with two large hotel brands. 

With that said, it takes time to turn this latest pivot from proof of concepts to a viable revenue-generating business, and after four years of investment, the short answer is the next round of funding did not materialize.”

WayBlazer launched in 2014, founded by Travelocity founder and Kayak founding chairman Terry Jones and Manoj Saxena, former general manager of IBM Watson.

The company licensed IBM’s Watson technology to power its natural-language processing capabilities, enabling it to provide recommendations based on traveler’s context and intent.

But in recent years major companies such as IBM, Microsoft and Google have been investing heavily in developing AI solutions for a variety of sectors including travel. 

When asked if it was difficult for a startup such as WayBlazer to compete with these larger players, Henry said: “We went head-to-head with a number of these companies and our ability to deliver real results very quickly with a small team at a low cost often proved its value and brands were willing to partner with us.

But again, it takes time and B2B can be a long sales cycle. The large companies can go longer before needing to generate revenue from a niche solution.”

According to Crunchbase, WayBlazer received a total of USD 8.7 million in two rounds, with the most recent round in May 2017 for USD 3.7 million.

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