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IBM Invests in WayBlazer and Sellpoints to Advance Watson Powered Apps in Online Travel and Shopping

IBM Watson’s cognitive computing capabilities help deliver highly personalized travel and retail shopping experiences

New York City - 19 May 2015: IBM (NYSE: IBM) today announced two new investments in WayBlazer and Sellpoints to advance online travel and shopping apps powered by Watson.  Today’s announcement is part of IBM’s $100 million commitment to drive new innovations and business solutions that build on Watson and follows the company’s recent investments in Modernizing Medicine and Pathway Genomics. The financial terms of IBM’s investments were not disclosed. 

WayBlazer, a travel search and discovery company, is applying the power of cognitive computing to redefine how consumers plan, personalize and purchase travel. WayBlazer’s Discovery Engine uses Watson technology to absorb massive amounts of data, while linking places, offers, and preferences, with social, cultural and economic data for recommendations tailored to each consumer. The company is led by industry visionary Terry Jones who founded Travelocity and was founding chairman of Kayak.  The IBM investment is part of a $5 million Series A funding round for WayBlazer.

Sellpoints, a provider of e-commerce and customer engagement solutions, has introduced Natural Selection, a new app powered by IBM Watson that helps users to better understand individual shopper preferences and intent. Instead of complicated questions or surveys, the app allows consumers to ask questions in natural language, quickly returning a set of relevant and personalized offers in just two taps or clicks. For example, when a shopper searches for a product, such as “My second grader needs help learning math basics,” the app returns product results sorted by relevance, increasing conversion rates for the retailer.

To this end, Sellpoints is developing a new shopping experience with Nicole Miller which will allow consumers to leverage Watson to discover collections that are suitable for their needs.  IBM's investment is part of a $7.5 million Series C funding round for Sellpoints.

“IBM is committed to helping our partners accelerate the development and delivery of Watson enabled apps into market where we see endless opportunities for cognitive computing to transform entire industries,” said Stephen Gold, vice president, IBM Watson.  “WayBlazer and Sellpoints are terrific examples of how cognitive computing technology can be used to help organizations redefine customer engagement and drive much deeper, meaningful and relevant consumer experiences.”

On average, consumers explore 20 or more websites to research destinations, flights, hotels, and activities, while weighing personal preferences and insights from social networks, online review sites and more. Using the cognitive power of IBM Watson, WayBlazer is developing intelligent discovery solutions that deliver contextual, personalized advice and insights for consumers across all phases of travel, from inspiration to transaction – transforming the way travelers seek advice with a trusted travel discovery experience that can be individualized for every user, every time.

“This is yet another exciting milestone in our journey with Watson to transform the way travelers seek advice,” said Felix Laboy, CEO of WayBlazer. “We’re honored that IBM and our other investors are committed to helping us grow our catalog of offerings and customer base in an effort to further establish WayBlazer as the industry’s most robust online travel advisor.

The online shopping experience can be just as, if not more, time consuming as booking an international trip. By using the power of Watson's cognitive computing capabilities, Sellpoints’ Natural Selection app empowers consumers to find relevant products in two simple clicks, eliminating nearly 60 percent of the clicks in traditional product selectors.

“From our first involvement in the Watson Ecosystem last year, to this new investment milestone, there’s a bright future ahead for us to redefine the online shopping experience,” said Brian O’Keefe, CEO, Sellpoints. “With the natural language and cognitive computing capabilities of Watson, we’re able to deliver a more personalized, relevant and enjoyable experience, and drive a much deeper level of engagement with customers.” 

IBM continues to advance and invest in Watson as a core technology and open cloud development platform and has welcomed more than 270 new commercial partners to the Watson Ecosystem. The company delivers this innovation through the Watson Zone on Bluemix, a digital innovation hub that enables developers to tap into Watson services and rapidly build, deploy and manage apps across any combination of public, private and hybrid cloud.  Tens of thousands of developers, entrepreneurs, data hobbyists, students and others have already built thousands of apps, generating up to 3B monthly API requests. 

To encourage innovation, IBM is pursuing direct investments in organizations that are developing new cognitive apps and services powered by Watson. IBM’s previous investments include Modernizing Medicine, a provider of specialty-specific electronic medical records (EMR) systems, Pathway Genomics, a clinical laboratory that offers genetic testing services, and Welltok, an industry leader in health optimization solutions.

About IBM

For more information on IBM Watson, visit: ibm.com/watsonecosystem.

Check out the IBM Watson press kit at: ibm.com/press/watson Join the conversation at #ibmwatson.

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About WayBlazer

WayBlazer is bringing to market a travel and hospitality inspiration, recommendation and planning platform that provides the travel industry with the ability to deliver more personalized, relevant and valuable travel information to consumers by transforming the way travelers seek advice. The privately held company is based in Austin, Texas and is led by seasoned travel and technology entrepreneurs, including the founder of Travelocity and founding chairman of Kayak.com. WayBlazer’s technology platform is powered by IBM Watson and utilizes a new technology known as cognitive computing to streamline the online travel research, planning and booking process, resulting in higher customer satisfaction, loyalty and revenues. For more information, please visit http://www.wayblazer.com and follow WayBlazer on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

About Sellpoints

Sellpoints is a provider of channel sales solutions dedicated to helping retailers and manufacturers sell more online. They do this in three ways:

1) They attract qualified shoppers to product pages using traditional traffic acquisition channels (SEO, PPC) as well as innovative, predictive advertising solutions.

2) Once there, they engage shoppers with the most relevant technology and targeted rich media content, getting them to spend more time with products.

3) Lastly, they track every interaction and transaction, and apply these findings to acquire more qualified traffic and drive more engagement.

For more information about Sellpoints, visit www.sellpoints.com

Contact(s) information

Charisse Higgins
IBM Media Relations
347-266-7540
cthiggin@us.ibm.com

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