Startup pitch: Nativoo uses AI to create custom itineraries for offline usage on smartphones
There’s a new startup in travel planning world, and it promises custom itineraries fueled by smart artificial intelligence for offline usage while traveling.
Nativoo, which is based in Brazil, allows travelers to build specific itineraries via a desktop and mobile interface which can then be downloaded for offline usage, making any smartphone into a guidebook. By using data from Foursquare, Wikipedia and others, the site has aggregated content from all over.
The company also offers city guides in the app store, which brings trip recommendations, directions and full-fledged city itineraries in an app format to smartphones.
The differentiator here as far as other city guide services is that Nativoo has integrated robust artificial intelligence to deliver their recommended guides. Nativoo also calls itself an “intelligent metasearch,” as the service integrates with Booking.com to allow users to complete actual bookings for hotels, tours and activities through the app and website interfaces.
Nativoo says they have reached 100,000 users with 150,000 downloads of their app, and has been enjoying a raft of accolades in the Latin American region.
Co-founder Cristovao Loureiro created a Vine overview of the travel startup, and shared more in the Tnooz Q&A below.
Tell us how you founded the company, why and what made you decide to jump in and create the business.
Nativoo is an intelligent Brazilian metasearch founded inside Singularity University, the institution founded by Google and NASA in Silicon Valley, focusing on changing the way people explore cities and buy travel products.
Nativoo’s award-winning (Gartner) artificial intelligence platform® creates travel itineraries automatically based on thousands of possibilities, like routes, schedules, time to spend on each place, user preferences, budget, and continuously learns giving travelers their own perfect itineraries and advice on what to do, where to go and what to buy.
The artificial intelligence is capable of improving the precision, coherence and flexibility of complex decisions to create travel itineraries, offering products in a very intelligent way.
We have a web and a mobile platform, which is one of the biggest in Brazil (soon a fully new version will be launched). Despite it’s a different technology, we decided to launch the startup in Latin America because of the local industry knowledge we have, the market opportunity, and the lower competition.
In addition we won the IBM SmartCamp as the best startup in Brazil and were chosen by the public as the Startup of the Year in Latin America.
What is the size of the team, names of founders, management roles and key personnel?
We are a group of experienced leaders within the Brazilian travel industry, innovation, and technology. Our investors are founders of big Brazilian travel chains and companies. Among our advisors we have directors and former directors of Lonely Planet, Priceline, TripAdvisor, IBM, and important people in the local industry like a National Secretary of Tourism and executives of top travel and investment companies.
Cristovao Loureiro is the CEO and co-founder, and prior to founding Nativoo, Cristovao worked for more than 10 years as an executive in the travel industry, and with international projects in big companies like Dell Computers. He holds a BA in Management, a Master’s Degree in Marketing/Management and is graduated of Singularity University (Google and NASA) in Silicon Valley.
Fancisco Palaois the co-founder and is a serial entrepreneur with over 10 years experience creating tech startups. He holds a PhD in Artificial Intelligence and an MBA from University of Granada. He is currently the CEO of Iactive, the artificial engine partner of Nativoo. Francisco is also graduated of Singularity University and is a faculty for Lean Startup.
Javier Cardenete is the CTO and co-founder, and is a Computer Science Engineer who started writing code at the age of 12 and has continued until today. Graduated from the University of Granada in computer Science and in artificial intelligence from University of Miami, he is one of the developers of Nativoo’s main AI platform and a senior mobile developer.
Leando Freitas is the CFO and investment leader, and has been working in the travel industry for 20 years. For Nativoo he decided to invest with an investment group and join the team as the CFO. Prior to that he was CEO of a middle size company and an advisor of some startups. He holds an MBA in Financials and Management.
Please share your funding arrangements.
We have raised in the first round of funding US$ 500,000 in 2012. Now we are working with own profits.
What is your estimation of market size?
We’ve been working initially in the Brazilian travel industry where companies have been growing around 20% YOY. The Brazilian market in general grows 6% while the world average is 2%, with the World Cup and Olympic Games this number will be even bigger. In 2012 Brazilians spent 22 billion travelling abroad and in 2011, 191 million trips happened in the country. That’s why our focus for now is to leverage the startup in Brazil.
What is your competition?
In Brazil there are some big OTAs (they are partners actually) but only a few startups in the field we are. In the world we know the competition is very tough, that’s why we’ve chosen to scale in a specific market that we know well.
What is your revenue model and strategy for profitability?
Nativoo is an intelligent metasearch. It offers products from partners like OTAs in a very intelligent and different way. Despite that, we license our technology to cities and some players. For example, Nativoo has been chosen as the official mobile technology by the Ministry of Tourism in Brazil for the World Cup in 2014. We will cover 12 cities and help the country hosting more than 3 million people.
Besides that we were the official app of the World Youth Day, the biggest event in Brazil ever, with the new Pope. We were chosen also as the official app of the Confederations Cup and the city of Rio de Janeiro as a white label.
We had more than 150,000 downloads, than 100,000 users registered and more than 70,000 itineraries created in 5 months online.
What problem does the business solve?
The industry is full of content, trip planners, OTAs and new ventures. We are getting and organizing this massive content for destinations, learning from users and creating itineraries automatically using artificial intelligence.
People take weeks organizing trips, even with normal trip planners it’s a problem, travelers don’t know if the place will be available, or how long you will take on each place, what is the best route to take, or what’s the place to stay. It’s time consuming and the technology is making decisions people take a lot of time to calculate.
How did the initial idea evolve and were there changes/any pivots along the way in the early stages?
The artificial intelligence we have has some cases with the Ministry of Defence in Spain to calculate routes to evacuate cities. This IA has been developed since 2009-2010. With our investors we acquired it and are evolving since then. We’ve been validating many things and there were only some small pivots so far, especially because we are profitable since 2013.
Why should people or companies use the business?
As we said in the problem, people take weeks organizing trips, even with normal trip planners it’s a problem, travelers don’t know if the place will be available, or how long they will spend on each place, what is the best route to take. It’s time consuming and the technology is making decisions that people take a lot of time to calculate.
What is the strategy for raising awareness and the customer/user acquisition (apart from PR)?
So far we’ve been working with buzz marketing, SEO and other strategies. As we are funded and profitable already, the future for raising awareness is a secret sauce!
Where do you see the company in three years time and what specific challenges do you anticipate having to overcome?
The challenge is to move world wide and face a big competition. How we see the company in three years, if I say that I’d be killed by our investors! What we can say is that a full new version of the product is in the oven.
What is wrong with the travel, tourism and hospitality industry that requires another startup to help it out?
Everyday there are more startups and content being generated for the travel industry. It’s getting massive. We believe people must enjoy their travels and let the artificial intelligence organize and do the math for them, put the content together, learn about users, make decisions and give them intelligent itineraries and products. Beyond that, it’s missing intelligence and technology in the Brazilian travel industry.
What other technology company would you consider yourselves most closely aligned to in terms of culture and style… and why?
Instagram. We believe it’s important to have a few people generating some great results, and because we are passionate about what we do.
Nativoo certainly has quite the team behind it, which bodes well for creating yet another trip planning service. Having already received accolades, the team is doing a good job at gaining traction with an impressive download count for a new trip planning service. And the app itself is easy to navigate, and offers a way to both discover itineraries that other recent travelers have enjoyed in a particular destination or to create a custom itinerary that works for a specific travel situation.
Of course, the competition is stiff and the graveyard littered by many a “trip planning” startup. Despite this precdent, the team could have a winner on its hands if it truly cracks the code on how to use AI to more effectively plan trips.
For example, if the computer ends up learning about who a user is as a traveler, the value would be that a push notification could simply pop up to tell the traveler where they should go next, given the context, current location, previous activities in-destination and other behavioral indicators. Creepy, perhaps, but also extremely appealing to those who don’t want to spend weeks planning a trip, preferring to leave some spontaneity built in – while not losing the chance to discover a hidden gem they might not have otherwise found without help.
Currently, the service is coming up against the chicken/egg content problem. With limited user penetration in North America, the number of shared itineraries is low. However, for those going to South America, the selection is robust.
The choice to identify some users as “Experts” should also help fuel a culture of curated recommendations, which make the service not only useful for itinerary creation but also for seeing what those in the know recommend.
Nick Vivion was a senior reporter for Tnooz from August 2012 to July 2015.