< PrevNext > Shep.travel Share Austin-based startup Shep.travel, formerly known as Compl.ai, is a browser plug-in that facilitates open bookings that fall within the guidelines of a company's travel policy. CEO Daniel Senyard spoke to BTN's Julie Sickel about how the tool can help companies boost compliance. What sparked the idea for Shep?I'd been very interested in the browser extension play space, as well as chatbots, so I started digging around trying to work out: Is there an application for travel that could be done in one or both of those places that could add value without doing customer service? I've spent time talking to corporate travelers. The CEO, CFO, COO—they all love corporate booking tools that restrict access, and it's very much a mandated program. By the time I moved down the chain of command and got to the travelers, they didn't really care about compliance. They just wanted to book where they thought was best, whether it was for points or price or preference. Instead of reinventing a better mousetrap with the same limits, what if we just embraced open booking and said, "You can book on the OTAs or you can book with airlines directly, and we are going to guide you?"How does the policy piece come in?We use the browser extension to overlay data and guidance, which is where the name Shep comes from; it's sort of shepherding you to a good decision and showing you what you should or shouldn't book. If I'm a traveler and I try to book something that's too expensive, it's going to say, "You're spending more than you should." And I can tell it from a drop-down menu, "I need to book this because it's around the corner from my meeting." What [Shep does] is package up all that information: who the traveler is, what site they booked on, what the lowest price offered was, the highest price, what the policy is, how much the traveler is exceeding the policy by and what the reason is. We send that as an alert to the travel manager via email or Slack, and that allows a switch in the way things are done in [small and midsize enterprises]. Now, that booking can be corrected within 24 hours, typically, instead of [the traveler] being punished a month later when the expense report is submitted. It gives autonomy to the traveler and visibility to the higher-ups.Can the plug-in be used on any browser and any site?We're in a closed beta using Chrome at the moment. And for us, we have to map to the HTML on the sites [to scrape the data] and say, "This [line of code corresponds to] price." We've got 11 sites mapped and working. We started with the [online travel agencies], and now we're getting some of the direct airlines. We're using our early customers to facilitate the mapping of these sites.And is there a chatbot component coming?We are working in the chatbot space, as well. It's more of a, "How much can I spend in Miami next week" [kind of policy guidance], not a mini-TMC. So travelers don't have to dig out their handbook; they can chat with the bot for a quick reference.What size companies are you targeting? We're starting with SMEs, so companies that have a policy, that have identified this as a problem but they don't have a tool or they're not willing to pay for a tool. For a smaller or medium-size company, their travel policy is on a wiki or at the bottom of the drawer, and it's just static and who knows who's got the latest version. There's a lot of uncertainty into what the rules are. We're taking things from companies, often a physical or static thing, and we're bringing it to life so that it's actionable and trackable on OTAs and consumer sites. We've talked to larger companies that spend $10 million dollars in travel, and they want us as a sort of additive when there's leakage from their corporate booking sites. But for now, our early customer launch is SMEs.