What made you decide to deploy this type of
technology in the travel space?
[Co-founder Riccardo Vittoria] and I had one
startup before as co-founders, in the food
tech space. We we were still [at New York
University]. We decided not to pursue the
startup longer because the scalability wasn’t
there. By that time, Riccardo was researching machine learning. We were thinking
about how to apply this technology to make
a difference, and we did a lot of customer
development in different industries first.
We looked into fintech, for example. We
looked into health tech. The true, meaningful
application we then found in the travel
industry. And after doing market research
and talking to lots of players, we understood
that it was an industry where this technology could actually make a huge difference.
That’s how we started developing Claire.
How does Claire work from the traveler’s
point of view?
The traveler-facing component is the booking engine. Employees check in with Claire on
many different types of platforms; we’re completely platform agnostic. You can talk to her
on Slack, on Facebook, via SMS, via Skype for
Business. We also have our own Web application where you can just go to a page and check
with Claire there. The system was built in a
way that you can very quickly integrate with
any other type of messaging platform that’s
open for API. We also do in-journey support or
travel assistance, meaning if something comes
up, for example, the traveler can be like, “Hey,
Claire, the meeting went longer. Please change
my flight to two hours later.” We do have a
travel agent that is in-house that will take these
requests; at this point in time, it’s technologically not possible to automate the entire process. But with new systems on the travel supply
side with the airlines, that would be possible at
And the company-facing portion?
The company can control which types of flights
Claire suggests, much like an assistant that
knows travel policy by heart and applies it
when booking for employees. At the same time,
Claire tracks and reports all travel activities
within the organization.
Does analytics play into that?
Yes. We’re experimenting with different ap-proaches right now. The main idea is for Claire
not to just give back dashboards to say, ‘Here’s
the data,’ but instead, much like an employee,
really make smart insights and smart recommendations based on data patterns observed
within an organization that we could then feed
back into travel policy.
What types of clients are you targeting?
We’re building Claire for small or medium-size
business customers that would apply Claire
to managed travel. Most of the companies we
work with are either completely managed or
lightly managed. It’s exactly the sweet spot
where we think the biggest meat in the market
is right now. Theoretically, the technology is
scalable to any sort of business environment
and to different travel programs, but that’s
nothing that we are directly working on at the
moment. We do have clients on the wait list
from literally all parts of the globe, but we are
targeting the U.S. market first and optimizing
our inventory for it.
Are you live with any corporate customers?
We are in private beta right now with a number
of individual [corporate] travelers, and we’re
looking at onboarding the first company soon.
With its virtual travel assistant, Claire, 30Seconds ToFly is building an “artificially intelligent employee”
that companies can hire. She’s savvy about corporate travel policy and can learn on the job, among other
things. CEO Felicia Schneiderhan spoke with BTN’s Julie Sickel about the birth of Claire.