< PrevNext > 30SecondsToFly Share With its virtual travel assistant, Claire, 30SecondsToFly is building an "artificially intelligent employee" that companies can hire. She's savvy about corporate travel policy and can learn on the job, among other things. CEO Felicia Schneiderhan spoke with BTN's Julie Sickel about the birth of Claire. What made you decide to deploy this type of technology in the travel space?[Co-founder Riccardo Vittoria] and I had one startup before as co-founders, in the food tech space. We we were still [at New York University]. We decided not to pursue the startup longer because the scalability wasn't there. By that time, Riccardo was researching machine learning. We were thinking about how to apply this technology to make a difference, and we did a lot of customer development in different industries first. We looked into fintech, for example. We looked into health tech. The true, meaningful application we then found in the travel industry. And after doing market research and talking to lots of players, we understood that it was an industry where this technology could actually make a huge difference. That's how we started developing Claire.How does Claire work from the traveler's point of view?The traveler-facing component is the booking engine. Employees check in with Claire on many different types of platforms; we're completely platform agnostic. You can talk to her on Slack, on Facebook, via SMS, via Skype for Business. We also have our own Web application where you can just go to a page and check with Claire there. The system was built in a way that you can very quickly integrate with any other type of messaging platform that's open for API. We also do in-journey support or travel assistance, meaning if something comes up, for example, the traveler can be like, "Hey, Claire, the meeting went longer. Please change my flight to two hours later." We do have a travel agent that is in-house that will take these requests; at this point in time, it's technologically not possible to automate the entire process. But with new systems on the travel supply side with the airlines, that would be possible at some point.And the company-facing portion?The company can control which types of flights Claire suggests, much like an assistant that knows travel policy by heart and applies it when booking for employees. At the same time, Claire tracks and reports all travel activities within the organization.Does analytics play into that?Yes. We're experimenting with different approaches right now. The main idea is for Claire not to just give back dashboards to say, 'Here's the data,' but instead, much like an employee, really make smart insights and smart recommendations based on data patterns observed within an organization that we could then feed back into travel policy.What types of clients are you targeting?We're building Claire for small or medium-size business customers that would apply Claire to managed travel. Most of the companies we work with are either completely managed or lightly managed. It's exactly the sweet spot where we think the biggest meat in the market is right now. Theoretically, the technology is scalable to any sort of business environment and to different travel programs, but that's nothing that we are directly working on at the moment. We do have clients on the wait list from literally all parts of the globe, but we are targeting the U.S. market first and optimizing our inventory for it.Are you live with any corporate customers? We are in private beta right now with a number of individual [corporate] travelers, and we're looking at onboarding the first company soon.