American Express acquires AI-based chatbot startup Mezi


Global financial services firm American Express has acquired its portfolio company Mezi for an undisclosed amount. The California-based company with a major workforce spreading across Pune and Mumbai is an artificial Intelligence-enabled virtual travel assistant.

In 2016, American Express, via its VC arm (American Express Venture) led a $9 million series A round in Mezi. Citing sources, an ET report mentions that the deal is being sealed in the range of $125-150 million.

Menzi’s early backers Nexus Venture Partners and Saama Capital have reportedly fetched hefty returns on their early bets.

Following the acquisition, Mezi will become a wholly-owned subsidiary of American Express. The company’s co-founders will continue to lead Mezi and report to Norman, Vice President of American Express Digital Labs, said its blog.

Post investment American Express used Mezi team to develop AskAmex which managed customer loyalty programmes and bookings for hotels and restaurants. Notably, the company pivoted to become AI-focused travel assistant.

Mezi is a brainchild of Pune-based brother duo Swapnil and Snehal Shinde which they founded in 2015. This is the second buyout for the twins brothers. Earlier, they sold out Dhingana to the US-based Rdio in 2014.

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Post pivoting in November 2016, the AI-based chatbot platform helps passengers with hotel reservation and booking tickets for trips while offering recommendations. It has a messaging-based interface that lets travel agent leverage power of AI and communicate with client queries’ in real time.

So far, the California-based startup has amassed $12 million risk capital from aforementioned investors.

Mezi had previously partnered with American Express for a pilot project called AskAmex, an app aimed at helping cardholders find and book travel-related services from their iPhone. This pilot will continue to run through the first half of 2018, said Mezi blogpost.

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