Story of twin brothers who made millions by selling their AI travel app startup to American Express

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    Let say you are a busy professional or a frequent traveler and have no time or want to save your time with the travel research or the booking process, and if you’re wondering how to do it, then here’s a good news for you. Mezi app does it all for you; it takes care of all your travel research and presents you with options to compare. It is a personal assistant for all things related to travel, flights, and hotels. Here’s the story of the twin brothers who developed this app and later made millions by selling it to American Express.

    The Pune-born twins, Swapnil Shinde and Snehal Shinde, co-founders of travel assistant startup Mezi, developed the artificial intelligence-powered travel app in 2015. This app allows travelers to simply text their requests for flights, hotels, or restaurant reservations. Upon texting, Mezi then provides recommendations, best options and makes travel arrangements for the customers at their request who can then finalize the bookings. Mezi uses artificial intelligence (AI) and human expertise to personalize the online travel discovery and booking experience. By learning travelers’ preferences and understanding the way customers make requests using natural language, Mezi gets smarter and more efficient over time.

    Headquartered in Sunnyvale, California, the company has 45 of its 60 employees based in Pune and Mumbai. Swapnil and Snehal Shinde, have previously launched Dhingana, the Indian streaming music service that was later acquired by US Rdio in 2014. Using their expertise and the algorithm they built at Dhingana for throwing up the right recommendations to users, the Shinde siblings then created Mezi app. This app was initially created as a one-stop solution for shopping as a virtual shopping assistant. Later, Mezi has found success as a chatbot-led virtual travel assistant since its 2016 pivot. Since then, it says 100,000 users have downloaded the app to book flights and make hotel and restaurant reservations.

    Nexus Ventures Partners is an early investor in Mezi which put $2.5 million in December 2015. The company also developed $9-million fund-raise in July 2016, which saw participation from Saama Capital and American Express Ventures, the strategic investment arm of American Express. The travel category turned out to be the most successful and in November 2016 Mezi pivoted to focus solely on flights, hotels and restaurant bookings. In addition to its iOS and Android app, Mezi also offered a white-label “travel-as-a-service” solution for travel agents.

    The twin brothers have just sold Mezi, their second startup, to American Express in an all-cash deal estimated at $125-150 million. American Express on January 30, 2018, announced that it has acquired Mezi, a personal travel assistant app. After the deal closes, Mezi will become a wholly-owned subsidiary of American Express. “With messaging emerging as the channel of choice for many, and the demand for unique experiences increasing, we believe the combination of Mezi’s capabilities with our global network of expert travel counselors creates a differentiated, high-touch service experience for our card members,” said Phil Norman, Vice President of American Express Digital Labs in an announcement. However, the company’s co-founders will continue to lead Mezi and report to Norman.

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