Tech startups vie for the prize at Phocuswright Conference

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Waylo CEO Angik Sarkar makes a presentation about his company, which created a hotel price prediction and tracking app, in front of the Dragons Panel at the Phocuswright Innovation Summit.
Waylo CEO Angik Sarkar makes a presentation about his company, which created a hotel price prediction and tracking app, in front of the Dragons Panel at the Phocuswright Innovation Summit. Photo Credit: Jamie Biesiada

FORT LAUDERDALE -- The Phocuswright Innovation Summit began Tuesday morning, featuring the first half of two dozen startups and emerging companies competing for recognition and a $100,000 prize.

The summit kicked off the first full day of programming at the 2017 Phocuswright Conference.

"Technology forms the backbone of the travel hospitality industry. Innovation fuels that advancement in technology to create efficiencies across the ecosystem," Pete Comeau, senior vice president of sales and marketing at Phocuswright, said while introducing the Summit.

Before the summit, Phocuswright held several Battlegrounds -- an early-stage underfunded startup competition -- in the past year at events in California, India and Europe. Several winners advanced to the summit stage from the Battleground events.

Comeau also said Phocuswright accepted applications from around the world from companies interested in participating.

"Summit is the result of a year's worth of scouring the globe to find the most interesting companies to present to you today," he said.

A total of 24 were set to present on Tuesday, what Comeau called a "curated group" populated with unique startups.

They had six minutes to give a presentation on their company, and another 3.5 minutes to answer questions from the Dragons Panel, a group of judges.

During the morning session, 12 startups presented, including Maidbot, a hotel-cleaning vacuuming robot inspired by the Jetsons' robot maid Rosie; Mezi, a travel chatbot using a hybrid of artificial intelligence and human agents; and Beach-Inspector.com, a startup dedicated to providing high-quality rich content and data about the world's beach destinations.

Another dozen startups presented during the afternoon session.

According to Lorraine Sileo, Phocuswright's senior vice president of research and business operations, this year's conference has 1,600 delegates in attendance from 40 countries.

"Travel is an amazing industry, especially in the way it reinvents itself year after year," she told the crowd just prior to the summit's start. "You are the risk takers and we thrive on your ideas. You are here because you are the ones creating our industry's future."

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