Monday, December 12, 2016

The newest billion-dollar startup is basically Uber for private jets


Want to hail a private jet? Yeah, it's not cheap, but it's possible and becoming much easier.

JetSmarter, a private jet marketplace, raised $105 million in a Series C round, the company announced Monday. That places the company as tech's newest unicorn since it reached a $1.5 billion pre-money valuation.

JetSmarter is a members-only service, where people pay $11,500 annual fee and $3,500 one-time initiation fee to access a range of scheduled flights. They can also elect to create their own flights.

"Our whole mission is make flying fun again. When you do that and you actually deliver that transcends the transportation piece," founder and CEO Sergey Petrossov told Mashable. "We're removing the word commodity from transportation."

Like Uber and other ride-hailing services, everything is accessible via an app.

The idea for the company came in 2009 after Petrossov booked his first private jet. He described the experience as "totally archaic" in that you had to talk to a lot of people over the phone, fill out an invoice and fax it back.


While there are other competitors — some that have closed — Petrossov took on the challenge and said the company has since reached 96 percent of the marketplace for jets flying under 30 passengers.

The latest funding round comes after a $50 million Series B round closed in July 2015. Existing investors include the Saudi Royal Family and Jay Z. New investors include an Abu Dhabi based growth equity fund, jet management company JetEdge, London-based venture capital firm KZ Capital and a Qatar based private equity fund.

"We do look at this space as winner takes all," Petrossov said. "We won't have the type of competition you see in the car space."

So far, JetSmarter has more than 6,700 members. Over this year, it's expected to fly between 50,000 and 55,000 unique passengers. Members can pay to fly guests.

"We have lots of events. A lot of people use us as a social network, for networking. Our service transcends transportation. It's more of a country club," Petrossov said.

The business model has changed over the history of the company. Prior, JetSmarter offered three pricing tiers, where a cheaper tier of $4,000 per year just let you book empty leg flights.

In the future, Petrossov said the company is adding more flights and perhaps looking to create another lower-entry service again. The company is currently beta testing flights under 300 miles where people pay about $1 per mile per person.


JetSmarter plans to add routes to India in the first quarter of 2017 and then expand to China and Latin America later in the year.

JetSmarter has about 250 employees and offices in London, Zurich, Moscow, Dubai. Its headquartered in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

The biggest challenge going forward? "Educate the existing flier that it's okay to share and that you can book through a digital medium," Petrossov said.

(Kerry Flynn - Mashable)

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