HiJiffy is a Lisbon-based startup founded by Tiago Araújo, José Mendonça and Pedro Gonçalves combining two of their passions – digital marketing and travelling.
Their idea for HiJiffy was built based on their travel struggles – the hard work and planning involved before a trip, in order to have an unforgettable travel experience. With this in mind, they developed a product that would improve the way people travel. After 3 months, they took part in the Lisbon Challenge, an acceleration program of Beta-i. It was here that they acquired knowledge about building a startup and developing a product.
The three founders managed different teams at a digital marketing agency in Lisbon, six years ago. With a degree in business administration, Tiago has travelled through more than 30 countries, with an aim to develop business. José is a software engineer and has 10 years of experience in back-end and front-end development, while Pedro has a degree in mathematics. In fact,he developed his first website at the age of 14 and has extensive experience in statistical analysis within the digital marketing sector. With complementary profiles, in November 2015 they decided to quit their jobs and headed to Web Summit to analyse new market trends.
After analysing the hospitality industry, they concluded that there was an urgent need to improve customer care. People today, associate efficiency with a real-time response and the hospitality industry is no different. That is when HiJiffy was born – an automated concierge available through Facebook Messenger for the hospitality industry.
What is HiJiffy and what are its possibilities?
Hotels currently have at their disposal a new technology based on artificial intelligence that brings to guests the ultimate new experience before, during and after their stay. HiJiffy is a virtual assistant that replies to guests queries and encourages them to book through the hotel’s Facebook Messenger. Whilst chatting with the hotel, the guest can ask any questions, if the chatbot does not understand it automatically transfers the guest to a staff member of the hotel so he can reply manually. HiJiffy’s technology learns from this response so next time it can give a reply without needing any human involvement. After the query is dealt with, the guest can check prices, availability and book his room through the messenger. If it is not the best time to book, HiJiffy’s technology will remind the guest by sending him a notification. During his stay he can request hotel services (such as instant request of housekeeping). The service increases hotel’s revenue with direct bookings, while offering guests a top service, with a 24/7 communication channel with the hotel.
“The big difference is that all this happens within the Hotel’s Facebook Messenger, where it will be possible to book a room or access services within an app that guests use on a daily basis to chat with their family and friends”. Tiago Araújo, Co-Founder of HiJiffy
The Initial Hiccups
HiJiffy was founded in July of 2016 but it was found to have an extremely high cost per acquisition of new clients.
Though the founders tried to distribute their solution to hotels to improve the way guests planned their sightseeing, they saw a much bigger problem: the huge miscommunication between guests and hotels, that was majorly being tackled through menu based apps that guests had to download. This was the moment when they realised they had to do something about it, but hadn’t imagine the journey ahead of them.
In 3 months they managed to build a minimum viable product so they could test-pilot with 2 hotel chains in Portugal. The initial promising metrics made them join NUMA Barcelona – a startup acceleration program that is a joint venture between NUMA Paris and mVentures who organise the Mobile World Congress. During 4 months, the team could work with amazing mentors (such as Sébastien Lefebvre – former Director of Growth of Twitter – who today, is HiJiffy’s advisor) and with more than 100 hotels with the aim of improving and expanding their product’s reach.
In February 2017, they joined the FB Start Program where they had a direct relationship with Facebook Messenger product team with the purpose of improving the chat solutions within the hospitality industry.
In June 2017, they were selected and funded by Horizon 2020 – a fund that selects the most disruptive tech companies in Europe.
In September 2017, they were chosen by Marriott to test-pilot within a Marriott hotel in London, implementing the first chatbot on a Marriott property.
During this journey, they went through many challenges whilst implementing high-tech in what is a traditional industry. They had to convince their first clients that to see an increase of guest experience and revenue, they would need more guests using the service. That is when the team had to work together with hotels on promotional channels of the service, such as a website widget that is plugged in the hotel’s website and when the clicked on by the guest, is redirected to the hotel’s Facebook messenger. This way, with a high number of guests using the service, the technology got smarter day by day, reaching 67% of automatisation for all clients.
The potential for AI in the tourism and hospitality industry
“Artificial intelligence is no longer a technology related with the future, it’s now the present and the hospitality industry can majorly benefit from it,” assures Tiago Araújo.
Customer care within the tourism and hospitality industry is the key. If we think about companies such as airlines and hotels, they receive a huge number of queries daily through e-mail, phone and social media. Replying to these queries as fast as possible has an immediate impact on the companies’ revenue.
There is a great similarity between queries and this is where artificial intelligence can have a huge impact, by optimising a part of them and freeing staff to other important tasks. HiJiffy is already automatising 67% of all the queries received daily.
The Marriot TestBED program
HiJiffy launched its minimum viable product in September 2016 and it was in then that one of the founders read an article about the Marriott TestBED program.
— HiJiffy (@HiJiffy) October 12, 2017
They knew the product was only in beta but decided to apply anyway. One week after knowing that they were selected by NUMA Barcelona for a 4-month program, they received the news they were shortlisted to pitch to Marriott TestBED program. The pitch was scheduled in London in November, precisely when the team moved from Lisbon to Barcelona. The feedback they received was amazing, but not enough to make it to the top 2 that test-piloted with Marriott in that year.
Due to great feedback from the jury, the team was able to maintain an ongoing relationship with the Marriott TestBED team. This constant contact was extremely important because they were continuously giving feedback on how they could improve their solution.
When the team saw that the applications opened for the batch of 2017 it was a no brainer that they should apply. They were, once again, shortlisted to pitch, with the difference that this time they made it to the selected startups to test-pilot.
HiJiffy is currently test-piloting in a property in London and this experience has been game changing. The team has access to all the operations of the hotel and had the opportunity to optimize their product taking into consideration feedback from hotel staff and guests needs.
AI in the next 12 months
Huge companies such as Google, IBM, Amazon and Facebook are working around the clock to be market leaders within AI, NLP and Machine Learning industry. In 2017, there was an amazing progress on the technology front by understanding the intent of the user and giving companies tools to give the right response to their users.
Next year HiJiffy’s founders believe that we will see a huge progress on having this technology for a more number of languages (English continues to be the most accurate one) and that we will see the first chatbots with global adoption.
HiJiffy is currently focused on Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom and plans to expand all over Europe during 2018. In 2019, the founders aim to enter the US market.
Catch HiJiffy at these startup conferences this year – Websummit and 4YFN as well as at travel venues such as WTM in London and ITB in Berlin.
Find out more about HiJiffy on their website: www.hijiffy.com
Read their blog posts: www.hijiffy.com/blog
Test the demo version at www.m.me/hijiffy
Request a live demonstration by sending an e-mail to: [email protected]