Data analytics start-up bd4travel is eyeing up the Swiss and French travel markets for expansion, having secured $4.2 million in Series A funding earlier this week.
Now officially registered as a UK firm the company, co-founded in 2013 by former Traveltainment chief executive Andy Owen-Jones, has its main office in Germany where it employs 17 people.
However, it expects to have 30 people on the payroll by the end of the year, as it expands with the UK next in its sights after Switzerland and France.
Owen-Jones himself is officially based in London in the TravelTech Lab established earlier this year by the mayor’s official promotional company London & Partners.
Establishing the company in London was one of the requirements of bd4travel’s funding partners, Hoxton Ventures and Talis Capital because of the more favourable investment scene in the city.
Owen-Jones said the focus will be on hiring new people and that bd4travel is looking to break even early next year.
“It’s much easier to set up and administer a company as a Plc than a GMBH or SAS in Germany or France,” he said.
“Therefore people looking to invest are much more likely to back a UK company than a German or French one.”
Owen-Jones added the investors also saw the UK as a favourable jurisdiction to own a company in terms of its future sale prospects.
“You can access some really good quality angel investors in the UK which you can’t if you are a German company. The UK has a great market and there’s plenty of opportunity.”
Bd4travel promises to bring to travel the retail techniques famously applied by Dunnhumby to Tesco.
The challenge in travel is that Dunnhumby was able to target offers based on data associated with multiple product shoppers put in their basket on a weekly basis.
In travel that is not possible, so travel firms have been forced to use data from bookers to develop personas and carry out A-B testing to increase website performance.
But Owen-Jones said when firm start to drill down to particular product segments they can never build a sample quickly enough to show statistical relevance.
“If you are doing A-B testing you are just trying to build the best average website for the average population.
“But if you are trying to build something for the individual you can literally never prove it’s worked. Therein lies the dilemma. The challenge is how to bring retail techniques into travel.
“There is going to be a new way to personalise which you cannot measure with A-B testing. You have to measure engagement.”
The bd4travel technology builds up a digital DNA of the customer through live profiling and then the system offers up recommendations based on that individual.
This can be used to filter products based on DNA factors, to make discount and marketing messages highly relevant or to provide call centre operatives with data on the customer.
“We really can work out why people booked and what was the most significant thing; first click or last click. We can work out which things you should correlate to attribute the booking to.”
Owen-Jones added: “If you are looking at Customer Relationship Management data and you have look to book ratios of 1:100 you are only looking at what people booked.
“If you look at what people search for there is a big relation between what people are doing now and what they will do in the future, and there is 99% more data.
“If you are a large IT player and have cached and live data systems you want to send lookers to the cached data and bookers to live data.
“You cannot just think about it in terms of how you optimise sites based on A-B testing.
“We are very much algorithm-driven and working out what the maths says about what makes your system perform rather than fitting people into baskets.”
Owen-Jones relocated from the south of France, where he was based with Traveltainment, to establish his new business after taking a non-executive role with Multicom in 2012.
He said the influx of funding could see it expand its presence in the TravelTech Lab.
“Being based in the south of France is not a serious place to run a company from. The incubator is a great location and a great place to meet people.
“They really want to help you open up in London and there are some very interesting companies there. There are some good young guys and it’s a really nice atmosphere.
“This [funding] will take us through until at least the middle of next year and beyond. Our goal was to give us headroom so we can be self-financing after that if we need to be.”
The Series A funding saw Expedia founder Simon Breakwell installed as chairman and Hoxton Ventures’ Husein Kanji join the board.