Phocuswright Europe: Lola founder reveals pivot plans to target corporate travellers

Phocuswright Europe: Lola founder reveals pivot plans to target corporate travellers

US travel start up Lola will unveil and version two of its app which connects travellers with live agents in the summer.

Founder Paul English, who previously founded Kayak, told the Phocuswright Europe conference in Amsterdam said the firm was preparing to pivot.

English said the new version will enable users who do not want to call agents to do self service and it will also target business travellers.

“People who love the Lola vision are people who travel a lot,” he said. “If you travel just twice a year Lola is not going to be exciting for you.

“If it gets to know your preferences it’s great. With very little text you can get a whole trip pulled together. It’s like having an executive assistant who knows your preferences really well.”

English said Lola has 11 firms in Boston, where the firm is based, that use the app. “They are the ones that are the most rabid,” he said.

English said he has spent a lot of time with small to medium sized firms to find out what is not working in terms of their current travel management company tech. He said most hate it.

“TMCs are not known for innovation of known for building consumer software.

“I think there is a better way to do things than TMC apps put in place by the finance department which is very different from what the traveller actually wants.

“What would work so well for business travellers that they will use the app all the time?”

English said he will not unleash a chatbot on customers because it was not good enough yet, although in the meantime Lola’s agents will use one in the background.

“You always want to be human. There are things humans can do which Artificial Intelligence will never be able to do.

“We are feaverishly working to get the chatbot better and better but we are not going to unleash it on human travellers until I feel it can do a better job than humans.”

Asked about his exit from Kayak following the metasearch site’s acquisition by Priceline, English said:

“I have started five companies before Lola. I’m just really focussed on the 0-100 phase, I really like the beginning innovation phase. I do not much like optimisation. I’m just not a big company guy.”

English said the most vital thing for start-ups was recruitment, to make sure you have a team around you that can match the best any large competitors have.

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