Robert Anders of Comtravo
A comprehensive business travel solution for companies – that is the Berlin startup Comtravo. The company makes the life of travellers, managers and accountants easier by using artificial intelligence. The technology-financing programme “Pro FIT” launched by Investitionsbank Berlin facilitated completely new technological developments for the company’s system.
Robert Anders, Head of Sales, sees a significant growth potential for Comtravo and considers introducing voice assistants.
You want to revolutionize the world of business travellers by using artificial intelligence. Can you explain your business model?
Comtravo simplifies the process of booking business trips – now you can book a complete journey in a matter of seconds with just one text message by e-mail. Comtravos Software translates the request by means of natural language processing into structured data and then through machine learning processes, returns the best, tailored travel options. The customer can book their favourite travel modules with just one click. Comtravos travel experts can focus entirely on the more complex requests and needs of the customer and the client receives both the personal touch of a traditional travel agency and the efficiency of an online tool.
How did you join Comtravo?
I was looking for a dynamic company where I see a strong potential for growth and have a high level of responsibility. As I had gained a lot of experience in the tourism sector and B2B sales in my previous companies, Comtravo was the perfect match.
How many companies are already using the service?
Comtravo has currently more than 350 customers from medium-sized companies. These include Viessmann, Hello Fresh, Home24 or BMW Open.
Can we really book business trips so easily today – simply by sending a message?
Yes, that’s possible. On the one hand by using our technology and on the other due to the support of our travel expert team for more complex inquiries. In this way, we always ensure the best result optimised for the customer’s needs.
You are focusing on ‘Natural Language Processing’ that converts text inquiries (e-mails) into structured data. How exactly does it work?
Natural language processing is a technology in the field of artificial intelligence, aiming at linking linguistics and computer science – meaning humans and machine. Our software takes a first look on every incoming message and decides – based on confidence – if it understands the message properly and whether to forward it automatically or to have an agent look into it again.
The first step for successful NLP technology is a well-functioning OCR, which means recognising written natural language. This involves both recognising separate words and understanding complex matters. To be able to understand them, NLP uses algorithms based on machine learning approaches.
Can you tell us about Pro Fit technology funding programme?
We were very delighted to have received the funding by IBB as we invest in new, often high-risk technology. Pro Fit promotes in particular a part of our NLP technology that does not exist in that way in any other place in the world.
How do you stand up against your competitors? Or do you still fill a niche on the market with your business concept?
We stand out against our competitors by using innovative technology.Fifty percent of all bookings processed manually in traditional travel agencies are handled automatically by our virtual travel agent. As a result, comparable cost savings can be achieved. Furthermore, the error rate for automatic bookings is smaller than for manual processes, and if errors occur, they can be fixed systematically. Overall, we provide a significantly more comfortable booking procedure compared to traditional business travel agencies.
Are you planning to extend your business model to leisure trips in the future?
A further application for our technology would certainly be the B2C market. However, in this market, it is much more difficult to identify specific patterns, such as repeated occurrence of certain travel activities. This makes machine learning more difficult. As we reduce manual effort significantly and plan to extend booking automation, we will initially focus on the B2B market.
Where do you see Comtravo in five years?
As already mentioned, the B2C field presents an attractive supplementary market for the future. Furthermore, we will consider the idea of entering the market on a more international level. Also, travel booking using voice assistants such as Alexa, Google Home and Siri might also become a very exciting field.
Berlin asserts itself as the startup capital – why are there in your opinion so many founders coming to Berlin?
The rents in Berlins are still relatively low. Moreover, many startups are already based in Berlin, so the companies benefit from a strong network of experts and investors. Furthermore, Berlin is probably the most international city in Germany, thus it attracts talents from all over the world.
What do you like about the city?
I appreciate and take advantage of the multitude of events, in both private and work life. In this regard, we are in one of the top places in Europe. I have lived in the district of Prenzlauer Berg for ten years and I particularly like the family-friendly atmosphere and the gastronomy.
Last but not least, can you finish the following sentence: “Berlin is…”
… the most fascinating and exciting city in Europe offering countless adventures and opportunities for each city dweller to develop.