STARTUP STAGE: Obvlo helps travel brands provide personalized destination content



Obvlo gives travel brands dynamic content to increase engagement and eliminate the need to manually create guides for their customers.  

Founded in 2021, Obvlo currently works with hotels that are part of the Hilton, Marriott and IHG brands, and the company is planning to expand its work to destinations and airlines.

What is your 30-second pitch to

On average personalization
drives 10-15% revenue lift. That’s why Chris Silcock, Hilton’s vice president
of global brands recently
told CoStar that the “most exciting” near-term opportunities lie in
personalized content

Obvlo is an artificial
intelligence-based solution that enables travel businesses to personalize their
guest experience and drive engagement with dynamic local content, like
personalized guides and recommendations. 

Obvlo uses AI to produce, update
and personalize content systemically so that it is always fresh, relevant and
up to date. Our vision is “local knowledge at a global scale” and accomplishing
this means developing the tools to produce and maintain dynamic content for any
destination on the planet.

Describe both the business and
technology aspects of your startup.

Obvlo is an AI-first company.
Our initial product is a white label web app that allows hotels to deliver
personalized local recommendations to guests pre-arrival and on-property with
no integration. Hotels under the Hilton, Marriott and IHG brands are using
Obvlo to boost guest satisfaction and save their front desk time. 

Powering this platform is our
dynamic content engine. The core of our business is the systems we have built
to create and maintain destination content globally. This involves everything
from scoring and ranking images to sentiment analysis to prioritize locally
owned businesses.

We have just released our
embeddable widget so that this dynamic content can be placed onto websites and
apps with just two lines of code, and we also have an API for brands to build
on top of.

Give us your SWOT (Strengths,
Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis of the company.

  • Strengths
    • Timing is fantastic – we’re an AI-first company and
      building a modular backend so we can work with whichever models make the most
      sense for the use case.
    • Personalization is a major trend in the industry,
      and we are part of that conversation.
    • In a short space of time, we have onboarded hotel
      customers within the Hilton, Marriott and IHG brands and have airlines and destinations
      in our pipeline.
  • Weaknesses
    • We’re an early-stage company and that means we must
      prove ourselves and back up our credibility with enterprise opportunities. It’s
      important to find innovators in these organizations. 
    • The travel vertical is large and while we’ve proven
      ourselves in the hotel market, we are constantly fighting to stay focused and
      not stretch ourselves too thin.
  • Opportunities
    • AI is a growing space and is predicted to add
      trillions of dollars to the global economy. We are in the right place at the
      right time and riding that wave.
    • The travel industry is thriving and young people
      increasingly value experiences over things. As millennials and Gen Z grow in
      share of wallet, personalization and self-service digital products will also
  • Threats
    • We’re always monitoring industry giants like Google
      and OpenAI to ensure we are solving difficult problems that they are unlikely
      to focus on. Every start-up is competing with Google in some aspect and this
      again is where having focus on our niche and differentiation is important.

What are the travel pain points
you are trying to alleviate from both the customer and the industry

We are a B2B product and our
customers are hotel and travel companies. We solve a two-sided pain for them –
producing rich and engaging content at scale and distributing it in a
personalized way. Creating local content for one hotel is relatively easy, doing
it for 10 becomes hard, and doing it for 100 is virtually impossible. This is
true right across the travel vertical, for example, an airline serving 150
destinations has the same pain point which compounds at scale, meaning our
value increases with the size of the customer.

Our content receives 4x the
engagement of static websites and over the last month, our guest satisfaction
score was 96% on average. While many start-ups are focused on how
recommendations are delivered (like AI chatbots), we are far more focused on what
is delivered.

So you’ve got the product, now
how will you get lots of customers?

We are taking a bottom-up
approach, focusing on individual hotels with whom the general manager is our
buyer and our sales cycle is very short. We work with independents but also
Virgin Hotels, Kimptons, Crowne Plazas, Marriotts, Hiltons, etc. At the same
time, we are progressing conversations with hotel groups and other enterprises
that have a content gap.

Tell us what process you’ve gone
through to establish a genuine need for your company and the size of the
addressable market.

Our first customer was a
100-room city center independent four-star hotel. Since then we have onboarded
paying hotel and short-term rental customers across a broad range of
categories. We are focused on producing highly engaging personalized content
for any destination on the planet and supplying this both directly to the
market and to partners providing technology solutions, like guest app
providers, website/app builders etc. The need has always been there, AI
presents an opportunity to cut costs and increase engagement and conversion.

How and when will you make

We have been generating revenue
since our first customer was onboarded a year and a half ago. Our revenue model
is primarily recurring subscription fees from hotels using our service to
provide local recommendations on everything from restaurants and bars to yoga
studios, running routes and events. We also generate commission from bookable
tours and activities which is shared with our customers.

What are the backgrounds and
previous achievements of the founding team?

The founding team have a broad
background in data and travel. Two of our founding team met whilst working at a
fintech business that used bank data for identity verification while other
members of our founding team come from companies like Dell and Lighthouse (OTA
Insight). Our shared passion is travel, which brings us together to solve
complex problems in this space.

How have you addressed diversity
and inclusion within your business?

We’re still a small team and
have not faced many challenges in this area yet. Our board is chaired by a
successful female entrepreneur, and we operate as a remote-first team to ensure
we have access to a broad and diverse talent pool.

What’s been the most difficult
part of founding the business so far?

Starting a business is
incredibly difficult and keeping focus has been one of the biggest challenges
considering the size and scope of the problem we are trying to solve. We
address this by having a steadfast focus on our ideal customer profile and
ensuring we communicate and collaborate constantly as a team. Three of our
founding team have previously started and exited profitable businesses and with
an experienced board behind us, we have what it takes to build a scalable and
sustainable company.

Generally, travel startups face
a fairly tough time making an impact – so why are you going to be one of lucky

We’ve gotten lucky already with
our timing, we were working on AI solutions before it took over the headlines.
With the wind in our sails, the rest of our success will come from perseverance
and a focused understanding of our target market; both the businesses we serve
and the end user.

A year from now, what state do
you think your startup will be in?

We have a great product that
customers love, so our near-term focus is on scaling our hotel customer base
and moving up-market towards larger deals. 

What is your end-game? (Going
public, acquisition, growing and staying private, etc.)

We aren’t thinking about an
endgame yet, because we believe the market is going to change drastically in
the next five to 10 years. Travel brands are increasingly becoming technology
companies which creates many opportunities.

What won’t change however is
content being king. Our dynamic content solutions will power the website and
app content of hotel and travel brands, making their products personalized,
more engaging and stickier. We see numerous avenues to a successful outcome.

Phocuswright Innovation Platform

Phocuswright Innovation is a platform that fosters a vibrant and interconnected community of innovators, startups, investors and thought leaders contributing to the overall development of an innovation ecosystem in travel. Using this one link, startups can learn about all of the innovation-related events and programs from Phocuswright and PhocusWire.

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