Japan’s Sora raises $710K to help hotels set competitive but profitable prices using AI

The Sora management team along with some of their investors
Image credit: Sora

See the original story in Japanese.

MagicPrice and Hotel Banzuke are both AI-powered pricing strategy support platforms for hotels, helping find them the optimal price, i.e. not too expensive but also not too cheap for lodgings. Tokyo-based Sora, the Japanese startup behind these platforms, announced on Tuesday that it has fundraised 80 million yen (about $710K US) in funding from 500 Startups Japan, Daiwa Corporate Investment, several angel investors, and loans from the Japan Finance Corporation. The funding round is unknown.

Sora was founded in 2015 by Daiki Matsumura, who previously worked in ad-tech at Yahoo Japan. In March of 2016 the company won the Colopl Prize at Tech Lab Paak’s 3rd batch Demo Day, and in July 2016 the team participated in Incubate Camp 9th, followed in August 2016 when it was adopted as a participating team in the 500 Kobe Pre-accelerator. Due to its participation in these three events, in July 2016 Sora secured 20 million yen (about $178K US) in a seed round from 500 Startups Japan, Incubate Fund, and Kotaro Chiba (the judge in charge of awarding the Colopl Award at Tech Lab Paak’s 3rd batch Demo Day).

A screenshot of MagicPrice
Image credit: Sora

MagicPrice, which launched as a beta version in July 2016, allows hotels to calculate optimal prices based on machine learning  using imported their reservation history data and curated pricing data of their neighboring competitor hotels. The prices will be reflected on companies’ website or ticket reservation / OTA (online travel agent) website via ‘site controller’ systems. As hotel back offices are usually busy, the service operates without functions that require literacy, and seeks to automate operations as fully as possible. It can be labeled an RPA (Robotic Process Automation) for hotels. In March of this year, Sora partnered with Dynatec, a Yahoo Japan subsidiary and a  leading system integrator for the hotel industry.

A screenshot of Hotel Banzuke
Image credit: Sora

Meanwhile, the Hotel Banzuke platform was started in late August and allows hotel owners to view how much the competing hotels in their vicinity were reserved for and how many sales they had compared with the users’ own on any particular day. According to calculations using the room price and the number of available rooms open to the public on websites, more than 10,000 cases of hotel data can be calculated automatically every day. Hotel Banzuke is provided completely free, and is assumed to be an introductory promotion for MagicPrice.

Sora has not released the current number of MagicPrice users, but for the time being it is aiming to acquire 5,000 users, which is about 10% of Japanese hotels and ryokan. With regards to Hotel Banzuke, the company has revealed that more than 500 individuals in the hotel sector have completed user registration since its launch about a month ago.

Translated by Amanda Imasaka
Edited by Masaru Ikeda