Between long lines, delays, cancellations and ever-changing policies, air travel can be stressful and confusing. But one new startup is using the power of AI to make things a lot easier.
Zenner (Now known as Faye), one of Investible’s newest portfolio companies, provides real-time travel advice and assistance to travellers. Its AI, nicknamed Zenny, tracks every moment of your trip – from tarmac to skies – and gives travellers a heads up on flight cancellations or delays, helps you rebook new flights, provides airport information and advice on how to make tight connections and more.
We spoke with Elad Schaffer, CEO of Zenner, to learn more about how the business has developed and how it's adapted, particularly in the face of COVID-19 travel restrictions.
The travel industry is a pretty competitive space. What made you want to start Zenner?
“There has been a lot of innovation in the travel sector in terms of how travellers book trips – both for leisure and business. But when you think about what happens after a booking has been made, the traveller experience has stayed much the same for decades. We still have to deal with long queues and delays, and there’s a lot of confusion around what to do when things go wrong. But it doesn’t have to be that way.”
“Zenner is actually the second startup I’ve started with my business partner and co-founder Daniel Green – who is the definition of an expert traveller. Whenever we would travel together, he would know all the shortcuts, the perks and what to do when delays or cancellations inevitably popped up. We wanted to turn this sort of inside knowledge into a product that makes travel as productive, safe and stress-free as possible.”
COVID-19 has severely impacted global travel. What has this meant for Zenner and how has the business adapted?
“There’s no doubt Covid-19 has been a shock to the industry’s system and many organisations are facing significant challenges in the short term. As an early-stage business, we’re able to play the long game because we’re agile enough to adapt and capitalise on emerging opportunities. Just as Airbnb rose from the GFC, we see this as an opportunity to reimagine the future of travel by taking a fresh, data-driven and traveller-focused perspective.”
“The pandemic has only made the case for Zenner stronger. Travel is stressful in the best of times because travellers are at an information disadvantage. COVID-19 has ramped up that uncertainty and confusion. It’s more important than ever that businesses and travellers have the information they need to make quick decisions in regard to their travel plans.”
“More specifically, we have adapted by incorporating COVID-19 information into Zenny. For instance, travellers can ask Zenny if they need to wear a mask at their destination, if health declarations are required, or even if airport restaurants and services are available. So, we see great potential for Zenner to help travel companies restore traveller confidence and ensure safe, smooth and stress-free travel experiences.”
How do you see Zenner working with other travel companies as you grow?
“Zenner is all about how data can be used to improve the travel experience, so airlines, hotels and other travel service providers can and will play a significant role in that. By integrating our services, we strengthen the travel ecosystem, such as helping airlines alert their passengers to disruptions and offer solutions or enabling airports to better serve travellers on stopovers.”
“We’re focused not just on providing travellers with timely and accurate information, but fusing information together from disparate sources and turning it into actionable insights. Plus, with Zenny, the insights can be communicated in simple, conversational ways across the tools that travellers already use every day like WhatsApp and SMS.”
What’s your vision for Zenner?
“Almost anytime I’m behind the wheel of my car, I use the Waze app to get around – even if I know the route or have been to the destination dozens of times. I do that because Waze keeps me up to date on my ETA, the traffic conditions, and even the location of speed camera and gas stations. Regardless of where I’m going, it’s going to make the trip easier and less stressful. We envision Zenner providing that same level of calm and confidence for air travel.
“Zenner provides you with information you need to know but also how to bounce back if something gets off track and how you can make the most of your trip. We see a future where travellers only need three things; their ticket, their passport, and Zenner.”
Investor Perspective on Zenner:
Zenner marks the 25th investment from the Investible Early Stage Fund. Investible’s Investment Director Daniel Veystblit says there were a number of factors that attracted investors’ attention.
“It always starts with the founders and Zenner is led by a great co-founder team, with Elad and Daniel having scaled a previous business together. They have the commercial and technical skills to lay a strong foundation for growth. We also appreciate that Zenner is taking a proactive, data-led approach to flight disruptions - a problem that is exacerbated by COVID-19. Travel is unlikely to be as easy as it previously was with additional rules and regulations in place,” said Veystblit.
“Zenner’s ability to handle large data sets, complete complex predictive modelling and translate this into informative real-time insights will enhance the travel experience, even for the seasoned traveller.”
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