Hospitality professionals far and wide are now starting to understand the benefits of technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) in their work of catering to their customers’ needs. One startup that integrates both is Twistar, a mobile device that collects and turns feedback from patrons into data that can be used for decision-making.
“There aren’t any secrets at Twistar; we are working really hard and listening to our clients to make sure we are solving their real work problems”
Twistar provides engagement that businesses can customise and customers can enjoy. A round black IoT gadget serves as a digital touchpoint within a service provider’s workflow, using data-harvesting software that runs on Android. For instant analyses of actions and voices responding to bespoke surveys and programmes, the gadget uses AI for market intelligence through an augmented AI-voice core powered by IBM Watson.
Nick Marshall, Twistar’s CEO and founder, shared in a prior interview that hospitality firms like hotels, restaurants, bars and lounges manage to collect only about 4% of the total customer insights immediately on hand. This translates to a missed opportunity to form deeper, more meaningful relationships with patrons. His company aims to give control back to the industry in a literal manner – after all, the Twistar device fits into a person’s fist and can be twisted accordingly.
Twistar’s ability to act upon the moods and sentiments it picks up caught the interest of the Marriott TestBED accelerator programme. As its 2017 finalist in the Dubai leg, Marshall shares that Marriott International’s mentorship “has given us an amazing understanding of how Twistar can add value to organisations within the hospitality and tourism sectors.”
“Over the course of the TestBED programme, we were able to benchmark the scale of the customer disconnect and demonstrate how Twistar can solve this problem to deliver a tangible return on investment for the wider business”
Marshall credits the startup’s 2017 performance to its team, which has staff working in San Francisco, London, Dubai, Delhi and Shenzhen. “Last year, we lodged our first patents, publicly launched and signed more than 40 global resale partners in our first two months, closed our first pre-seed funding round in October, and won the ‘DubaiTourism – Best Start-up in Hospitality Services’ award!” said Marshall. “Our devolved approach towards operations has been one of our biggest successes and has created an incredibly collaborative, supportive and efficient environment.”
It also seems 2018 is going in favour of Twistar. “We are now preparing for a seed round in Q2 2018 since we already have a solid pipeline of investor interest from the US, Europe and the Middle East,” Marshall shared. “We have three more pilots in these regions, we are actively signing more license resale partners, and we are actively looking to grow our global team. Exciting times!”
To other tech startups seeking to disrupt the travel and hospitality industries, Marshall passed the following advice: “Talk less and listen more. If you don’t listen you will never learn! We have built an amazing international team for our project, but our approach has been client-led at every stage to make sure we are commercially aligned with their goals and objectives.”
He also dispensed wisdom from the TestBED experience to established players in the same sectors: “New technologies like ours give businesses within hospitality and tourism the ability to take control of the existing data within their organization, make real-time decisions that are backed by hard evidence and deliver a real return on investment.” He adds, “To make a real difference, these industries need to show a willingness to engage with new technologies and innovative startups.”
This is part of a new series featuring IoT in travel tech. Look out for more in this space.