Exclusive: TrustYou brings semantic analysis to US hospitality industry, acquires Review Analyst

You’re a US hotel and you need to know what customers think of you. Are bed bugs a bad thing? Did they like the bidet?

German Radian6 competitor TrustYou purchased Review Analyst and received a $5 million first round of funding today to help hotels make the most of their reviews.

TrustYou analyzes the thousands of hotel and restaurant reviews made available through sites like Trip Advisor and Yelp. The company focuses on sentiment analysis, or understanding whether a word means something negative or positive. For example, someone saying the hotel food made them “sick,” is negative, where a “sick” king sized bed is positive.

TrustYouAfter identifying the sentiment, TrustYou packages and provides the hotel with a review summary. This is done through an application programming interface (API) that allows the hotel to use its summarized data and display it on its site. TrustYou’s APIs are not public, however, and can be accessed with payment.

TrustYou also used the APIs to create a semantic search, which allows people to find relevant hotels based on words like “romantic” or “spooky.”

“The problem we have currently is there’s so much data out there that no one can make sense out of it all,” TrustYou chief executive and co-founder Ben Jost told VentureBeat.

TrustYou search

The company started trying to “make sense of it all” in Europe where it began selling “global review scores,” aggregated reviews from all over the world offered as a client-specific product. TrustYou decided it wanted to work in verticals, as opposed to general topics, so it chose the hotel and restaurant industry, since both see a huge influx of reviews. TrustYou won’t just serve one hotel brand, such as Hilton, however. Instead, it analyzes reviews of individual brands and properties such as a location-specifc DoubleTree.

According to Jost, main competitor Radian6 has never taken business away from the company.

“Radian6 comes from a very generic point of view. It’s pretty easy to scale because it’s just generic,” said Jost. “Over the years we saw vertical players because if you specialize in verticals, you can get much more quality data.”

“It’s more work, it’s more granular, but at the end of the day if you can solve that, it’s more rewarding.”

TrustYou is up against more competition in the US market, however. Companies like ViralHeat are also doing semantic analysis, and have big plans of their own, such as products to help businesses know whether a customer may actually purchase or not. Not to mention a bevy of other social analysis websites such as SocialNuggets, which analyzes was Jost calls “unstructured data.”

Jost described that with all the European success, TrustYou needed to make an entrance in the US market. But because of culture and business practice differences, the company decided to acquire Dallas-based Review Analyst instead of forming its own office on American soil. TrustYou first partnered with Review Analysis in 2010, and asked the company to come on-board this year.

TrustYou is not disclosing the amount of money paid for Review Analyst, but does say that part of its $5 million round of funding will go toward the acquisition. The rest of it will be focused on research and development for its sentiment analysis product as well as on marketing and hiring for the US office.

TrustYou was founded in 2008 and is headquartered in Munich, Germany. Clients include Hard Rock Cafes, Starwood Hotels, Best Western Hotels, and Omni Hotels & Resorts. Credit Agricole Private Equity funding this round.