< PrevNext > Luke Gebb, American Express Digital Labs SVP The Unexpected Acquirer By Adam Perrotta / December 12, 2018 / Contact Reporter Share At the end of last year, Swapnil Shinde, co-founder and CEO of Mezi, landed on BTN's 25 Most Influential list for the company's advancements in developing an artificial intelligence-powered, chat-based mobile booking tool for managed travel. Given the attention and accolades Mezi had racked up since its 2015 founding, it came as little surprise when the company was acquired in early 2018. Many, however, were caught off guard by the buyer. Instead of major travel management company, which seemed a more natural fit, it was payment card giant American Express that shelled out reportedly around $150 million. Gebb led the acquisition drive on behalf of Amex.Amex's strategy became clearer in June, when Mezi, which operates as a wholly owned Amex subsidiary, announced it was pulling out of its existing TMC relationships to focus on integrating its technology into Amex's cardholder services. The removal of Mezi from the managed travel sector left a gap in the market, removing what was widely considered one of the most promising mobile booking and services apps, at a time when such traveler-facing tools are increasingly prized by service providers seeking to offer added value to client companies.While it left a handful of TMCs scrambling, Mezi's exit opened the door for other apps like 30 Seconds to Fly, which was adopted by WTMC, to gain more traction in the market. Meanwhile, Amex's stamp of approval served as powerful confirmation of the value of chatbot-based mobile booking tools at large, with investment dollars surging into the vertical in the year since and a number of emerging corporate travel enjoying the increased attention. From either perspective, the acquisition—and, by extension, Gebb's role in pushing it through—had an undeniable influence on the corporate travel market in 2018.