Finalists announced for Marriott Hotels’ TestBED programme in Middle East & Africa

Marriott Hotels announced yesterday the three finalists for its TestBED programme, which launched in the Middle East and Africa region for the first time in September this year. Out of the almost 200 submissions received, six candidates were shortlisted before the three finalists were selected.

The three announced finalists are Twistar from Dubai, Unified Inbox from Singapore and Beachill from Lebanon.

TestBED is a 10-week accelerator programme that gives select seed and early-stage startups the opportunity to test their ready-to-pilot products within an operating Marriott Hotel in a major city.

First launched by Marriott Hotels across Europe in 2016, this year marks the first time the initiative has been brought to the Middle East and Africa region, beginning in the United Arab Emirates. The programme has given regional entrepreneurs an exciting opportunity to turn their innovations into a reality, while providing Marriott Hotels with the chance to further revolutionize the hotel experience in the Middle East and Africa.

The program is also giving them the chance to test out their product or service by piloting it in a live hotel environment, with invaluable feedback from guests and associates that would help them further develop and perfect it. The winner will also be supported and mentored by Marriott Hotels in the longer term.

The six shortlisted candidates were invited to pitch their idea in front of a panel of judges on November 14th, following which three finalists were selected.

Participants were asked to address which problem their product or service was designed to tackle, what made it different, how it would benefit the Marriott guest, and what made them a winning team, among other questions that revealed their motivations.

The judging panel was made of up of Sandra Schulze-Potgieter, Vice President of Premium & Select Brands, Middle East & Africa at Marriott International; Virginie Liddawi, Director of Portfolio Marketing, Middle East and Africa at Marriott International; Ibrahim Tadros, Head of Business Development at Wamda; Guy Kedar, Head of Innovation at Wavemaker; and Emkwan, an Award-Winning Video Blogger and Social Media Content Creator based across Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

The judges’ criteria included creativity, how easily the ideas could be integrated into the existing hotel system, how distinctively they could change the game, and ultimately, how well they could enhance a guest’s experience whether before, during or after their stay.

More on the three finalists are:

Twistar: A smart new Android IoT mobile device that uses AI for market intelligence by analysing guest’s actions and voice for real-time insights. Using beautifully-animated and uniquely designed customer surveys, Twistar allows businesses to ask the questions they want for the right answers to help further their business needs, while creating a deeper and more meaningful connection with their customers. It uses advanced connectivity (4G-LTE, Wi-fi, Bluetooth, BLE-Beacon, NFC), and an augmented AI-Voice core, powered by IBM Watson, and can identify and understand user Sentiment on an unparalleled level. Twistar gives businesses the opportunity to understand customers through real-time actionable insight, and it has the ability to capture five times more data from 20 times more customers, in a faster, easier, and more engaging way that any other solution on the market today.

Unified Inbox: A specialized chat app that allows guests to communicate with smart devices using text and voice. The global intelligent Internet of Things (IoT) messaging company has created a unique UnificationEngine™ platform bringing together Artificial Intelligence with IoT and unified messaging, so that people will be able to voice and text message within the environment of a smart home, smart city, or smart enterprise, the same way that they would chat with their friends on the communications channels they use the most – but without the need for an additional app. Their goal? To simplify the way we communicate through inventing new technologies designed just for that.

Beachill: An eco-friendly solar-powered beach mattress that can even charge guests’ mobile devices and cool their drinks. The mattress features a built-in solar-powered 7-watt charging station with a USB 2.0 output, a 2-litre thermo-storage fridge where you can preserve both your hot and cold beverages, and a heat- and water-proof pocket to help keep your valuables safe, all pulled together with Dralon Acrylic fabric imported from Spain and an ergonomically-designed finish to ensure absolute comfort as well. It’s easily pulled apart and put back together, so that it’s ultra-portable and easy to carry whether guests intend to use it at the beach, a campsite, or even at their home.

“With such a wealth of talent across the region, and genuinely innovative submissions from day one, choosing three finalists was a real challenge, but we are confident that these three candidates’ ideas have what it takes to help shape the future of technology in travel. Supporting game-changing technological innovation to progress our industry has long been a hallmark of the Marriott Hotels brand, and we’re looking forward to seeing these ideas brought to life, and selecting our ultimate winner,” says Sandra Schulze-Potgieter, Vice President of Premium & Select Brands, Middle East & Africa at Marriott International.

The finalists will now take part in a three-day boot camp beginning on November 27th, where the intensive workshop will help them develop their testing strategy and kickstart the acceleration process. They will receive full support throughout the product piloting and training process, with the start-up mentorship programme beginning at the end of November.


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