“Personalization is now table stakes. [Zingle’s] value proposition is very logical, but the penetration of these solutions in hotels is still fairly low. That’s the perfect storm of opportunity for us as investors, and so we obviously voted with our checkbooks.”
— Matt Melymuka, Co-Founder & Partner at PeakSpan Capital
On January 31, business messaging platform Zingle announced $11 million in venture capital funding, as well as its acquisition of hospitality-focused artificial intelligence (AI) firm Presto.
Led by PeakSpan Capital, Zingle’s most recent round of investment will be used to expand the company’s artificial intelligence capabilities and ramp up hiring efforts, according to CEO and cofounder of Zingle, Ford Blakely. With clients like Hyatt and The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, Zingle seeks to double down on the traditional hospitality market, Blakely said.
Founded in 2009, Zingle offers businesses SMS and MMS messaging solutions to communicate with and manage customers through a variety of channels. Using Zingle, hotels can enable their guests to text the concierge for an extra towel or ask for the Wifi password and receive manual or automated replies, reducing staff demands and streamlining operations.
The company’s proprietary technology combines customer data, an automated platform and predictive AI to analyze texts for what customers need. With Presto’s acquisition, Zingle will be able to learn “from the over 6 million monthly messages exchanged between guests and hotels, [and] categorize over 150 different intents,” according to a company press release.
“Our fundamental core is in hospitality, so we’ve looked at hundreds of exchanges of people asking for certain items,” Blakely said. “With a high degree of confidence north of 90%, we can come up with a predictive recommendation of what people are looking for based on those key metrics.”
The investment from PeakSpan comes at a time when the hospitality industry is scrambling to catch up to the digital disruptions that have enabled unicorns like Airbnb and WeWork to thrive in the modern share economy. Blakely said that the popularity of Facebook Messenger in recent years has led businesses to realize texting is “the next big thing” for appealing to customers, shifting industry focus away from mobile in-app messaging.
“[Zingle] benefited from the market realizing that messaging was the right form of communication,” he said. “When Facebook bought WhatsApp in 2014, it was the first time that a tech giant had recognized [messaging]. After that, all my headwinds turned into tailwinds.”
Matt Melymuka, cofounder and partner at PeakSpan Capital, agreed that the time was ripe for B2C messaging to overtake the hospitality industry.
“Personalization is now table stakes,” Melymuka said. “[Zingle’s] value proposition is very logical, but the penetration of these solutions in hotels is still fairly low. That’s the perfect storm of opportunity for us as investors, and so we obviously voted with our checkbooks.”
Melymuka said he believed that Zingle’s competitive advantage was its tailor-made platform for hospitality businesses, and that “nobody is even coming close to what they’ve done.” Similarly, Blakely emphasized his company’s commitment to growing its AI capabilities, but said that this did not trump the firm’s primary focus on understanding and improving the overall hospitality experience for customers.
“For me, creating effortless experiences is today’s best currency,” he said. “The customer experience should be the primary focus.”