Travel Startup Lola Raises $15m in Latest VC Round

Lola, a unique “human-powered” travel app start up, has already raised $15 million in its most recent round of funding. The company was founded in 2015 by former Kayak CTO Paul English. Lola has raised $34 million in all, and English is planning on combining extra-mile human service with AI recommendations to create a one-of-a-kind experience.

The app has a simple but powerful premise. Lola matches users with human travel agents who help customers with all of their needs, from plane tickets to rental cars. English is betting that Lola will be a high-tech way to bring personal service back to the travel booking process while retaining the convenience and cost-effectiveness of shopping online. The on-demand and real-time service would be especially useful to travelers facing emergency situations and short time-frames, but English and its co-founders are banking that this concept will have large-scale appeal. For now, Lola is only available for IOS and in the United States, but hopes to eventually expand.

Lola stands for “Longitude and Latitude,” and the startup hopes that it can re-awaken the public’s excitement for travel with its innovative but traditional concept. The company will be launching a “smarter” version of Lola which learns a users preferences over time in order to provide more accurate recommendations. Lola also hopes that its special business model will help it win a chunk of the B2B travel agent market.

Boston-based Lola recently acquired an Expedia-backed hotel meta-platform called Room77, also based in Boston. English serves as CEO of the startup, while co-founder Bill O’Donnell, formerly Kayak’s Chief Architect, serves as CTO.

Amazon now Allows Customers to Shop with Their Televisions

On Tuesday, December 13th, the major online retailer,, introduced a new application for Apple TV users.  “Amazon App: Browse, Search, Shop” allows its customers to browse and purchase items using their Television sets. Available for the new, 4th generation Apple TV system, this app includes many of the same functions as the Amazon app for IOS smartphones. Customers can search for items, read reviews, and actually purchase products using this innovative, new application.


In order to actually make purchases with their apple TV, users must be signed up for Amazon Prime, which is Amazon’s version of a VIP membership program. Amazon Prime members receive many benefits, including access to Amazon Video, as well as, free two-day shipping on all orders. Available for a very reasonable price, the membership costs only $99 per year. For those who are frequent Amazon customers, this is a fantastic deal.


Even for those who are not Amazon Prime members, the app allows you to save items to a wish list, which can be accessed on a smartphone or computer any time. Customers can also scroll thorough shopping lists, featured items, and gift guides using their Apple TV remote.


Apple released its 4th generation of the popular streaming device, Apple TV, last October. It is most commonly used for streaming video from channels like Netflix and Hulu. However, apps are available for a wide variety of purposes, including social media and website browsing. The newest version includes a voice control function. The Siri remote, allows shoppers to verbally search for whatever items that they are looking for. This eliminates the struggle of using the keyboard interface with a remote control.


Basically a large-scale version of the Amazon shopping app for IOS, this new Apple TV application could change the way that people shop. If this innovation is successful, there is no doubt that other companies will soon follow in Amazon’s footsteps. At this point however, many reviewers are unsure that the app will actually prove itself useful.

Pokemon Go Formerly Touted Fitness Benefits, But Now…

Unless you have been living under a rock you will likely have heard of Pokemon Go, a video game designed for mobile devices that was modeled after game series of the same name which has retained massive popularity since the 90s. During the game’s release in early July of 2016 the sentimentality surrounding the franchise’s charm as well as the game’s interactive, location based game-play rocketed it to massive success. Given that players actually had to move around in real life to capture the bizarre, cartoonish creatures within the game, many people began remarking that the game was having a extremely positive side-effect – weight loss. People got so excited about the game’s purported fitness boons that this became a cornerstone of it’s marketing.


However, Pokemon Go’s health benefits have been wildly exaggerated according to a study carried out by the British Medical Journal (which can be found here: which studied adults in the United States of America, ages 18 to 35 years old. The study found that slightly over 47% of the participants walked around 4256 steps per day before they played the game. After acquiring the game and during the first week following it, these same players experienced an increase in steps per day of 955. However, this boost in activity gradually waned until it dropped off entirely by the sixth week of play. This data was counterbalanced by a control group who were observed walking but did not install nor play Pokemon Go.


It should be here noted that there were a select few individuals whose walking habits were affected in the long term. However, these individuals were so few and far between that they hardly registered in the percentage total.


So, to re-cap, what we have learned from this study is that Pokemon Go produces only nominal changes in behaviors which last the span of around only seven weeks in total. That being said, much of this merely has to do with individuals having the drive to actually go out and get moving, it’s a statistical average and not a hard and fast rule. So if you are looking to lose some weight with Pokemon Go you can certainly do so as long as you treat it with the same regimented dedication as the weight lifter would his trips to the gym.


New Startup Seeks To Automate Content Mills

Automating The Process

A new startup created in Ohio seeks to change the way search engine optimization content creators operate. AI Writer has produced a neural network with the ability to generate more than 2000 articles a week. Even with the amazing efficiency of AI Writer the company’s founders were able to produce this neural network without much of a budget. This has the potential to both vastly improve the SEO content many web developers need but many who rely on content mills for employment will find themselves out of a job.



Disrupting The Current Business Model

Content mills tend to rely on the low cost labor they are able to find in developing countries across the world in order to quickly produce content. The articles written by these workers is then used by clients of the content mills to create websites that essentially serve as link farms. The links across multiple websites all lead back to one main website to give search engine algorithms the mistaken perception that the main website deserves a better ranking within the search engine. Although many content mills may pay workers as little as $0.01 a word the profit margins in this industry are so thin many content mills go out of business shortly after opening. AI Writer aims to beat its competitors through reducing labor costs and boosting efficiency.



Fears Of Technological Unemployment

The potential effects of AI Writer may lead to unemployment for writers working in content mills. Given the unfortunate lack of options many working in SEO writing face this may mean a bleak future for many. However there are still apparent flaws in the quality of work AI Writer’s neural network produces. Many articles read like gibberish and the content produced is of a low quality. Sophisticated algorithms might detect the articles are not written by humans and choose to ignore them. However AI Writer is working on these apparent flaws and wants to correct them in the future. Only time will tell if this new automated approach to search engine optimization takes off.


Australian Students Create Better Census Website Than Government

Two university students located at Queensland University of Technology created an operationally better performing census website than the Australian government was able to. What’s more impressive is that the duo of students was able to create the website on a budget of just 500 dollars. The budget for the governments website ended up being approximately ten million dollars.


The development of the website occurred during the yearly Code Network Winter hack-a-thon where students are invited to develop and demonstrate the utility of products that they create over the weekend. Generally, hack-a-thons range in experience and utility, but clearly, this event led to a much desired project.


The need for a new website arose when the ABS’ Census site was crashed for a full day as the servers were flooded with millions of individuals filling out the survey that is meant to be taken every year. The official website created by the government was not made to handle such traffic, thus overloading the servers.


The project created by the two students was developed with the intention of avoiding such problems. They incorporated a ‘serverless architecture’, achieved by hosting the site on Amazon servers. This eliminated the potential of a crash due to overloaded servers.


This relatively new technology was denied by the government production team, despite the fact that the system operation staff at Amazon provides top quality service.


As a testament to its ability, the website developed at the hack-a-thon was created with the intention of handling over four million connections per hour. This is four times larger than the original census website, which can only handle at most one million.


A majority of the expenses devoted to the website created by the university students is devoted to the Amazon Server service. The actual production and maintenance of the website cost little to no capital.


The thought process in the minds of the students was that the website and the product did not have to be as needlessly complicated as the product developed by the government. They also had the advantage of bypassing government restrictions that otherwise would have been in place.


This product won first place at the hack-a-thon rightfully for creating a service that vastly outperformed the government competitor currently on the market.