The two winners of Marriott’s TestBED accelerator programme, which helps tech start-ups to innovate in hotels and hospitality, talk about how their apps and gadgets came about and what the future will hold for everyone using hotels when travelling.
Jambo, Laura Stembridge (CEO and Founder)
I travelled extensively for work on my own and the excitement soon wore off. Traditional hotels are not conducive to meeting new people. I used to think it be great if the hotel organised a group run, a quiz night, or happy hour networking drinks so you could meet other people and either maintain a work-life balance or boost your productivity whilst on the road. It could be a great opportunity to connect with colleagues from your company that you don’t already know, meet new business contacts or perhaps make new friends.
We all love those serendipitous moments when you bump into contacts old or new, but these occasions are few and far between. Who you meet is left up to chance. Jambo was born out of personal frustration.
Jambo is a location-based, invite-only mobile platform that enables professionals to build their business networks locally and whilst on the road. Jambo alerts you when there are professionals nearby who share the same common social and professional interests. In app communities (aka Tribes), it provides a means for groups, associations and corporates to connect members and employees respectively.
For hotels, it provides a means to engage and communicate with guests beyond check-in, build communities in hotels and enhance the guest experience, making the overall business travel experience more productive and enjoyable. Imagine gaining your next big business deal through a new business contact you met in the Executive Lounge, finding a running partner to embrace those early morning 6am runs with, or fellow sports fans to watch the football game with in the hotel bar.
I am the first to admit, when I first came up with the idea for Jambo, I knew absolutely nothing about tech or building apps! That said, I’ve always loved the challenge of creating something that is seemingly impossible and trying to get it off the ground. Surrounding myself with the right people and talent was key. I am quite a logical and methodical person. Setting out a detailed list of what was needed and working through the action points has helped us get the product developed and launched into the public domain for beta testing.
Dazzle, Luke McNeice (Techpreneur)
I work for Lola Tech, a travel software company. A colleague sent an Amazon Echo device over to the UK from the US in the spring and we had been looking at the possibilities presented by a voice interface. The first attempt was an interface for an airline, showing how we could explore and book airline tickets or query the FAQ section of the site.
Myself and my colleague were having a beer or three one sunny evening in Broadway Market discussing the future direction of Lola Tech and how we had not seen anything as disruptive and exciting as the voice interface since the adoption of the smartphone. We were talking through the downside of the interface, principally background noise and my partner-in-crime spotted an opportunity to develop services within hotel rooms.
We immediately spoke to the powers that be at Lola Tech who agreed to fund an exploratory team to better understand the scope of the opportunity.
We ran the idea for Dazzle (at that point called ‘Product Butler’) through a lean canvas to better understand the shape of the business and brought in Rob Preus-MacLaren from our partners at Neon Tribe to code up a demo version of the product.
Dazzle is a voice-activated personal assistant. It sits in the hotel bedroom and uses a hybrid of Artificial Intelligence and hotel staff to deliver services and information to the guest without them having to lift a finger.
We’re currently trialling Dazzle at Marriott County Hall in London and have received some very positive feedback from the demonstrations we’ve given. With the rise and rise of the voice interface we see Dazzle becoming a must have for progressive hotel chains.
See how Marriott Hotels® are innovating in the travel space with Marriott TestBED.
This accelerator programme for tech start-ups in the travel sector is leading innovation aimed at enhancing or changing the way its hotel guests experience travel.