Travel Distribution Summit Europe 2008Online private jet booking network PrivateFly was chosen as the winner of EyeforTravel's Innovation Initiative – Travel's `Dragon's Den' contest here in London today.
Published: 21 May 2008
Travel Distribution Summit Europe 2008
Online private jet booking network PrivateFly was chosen as the winner of EyeforTravel's Innovation Initiative – Travel's `Dragon's Den' contest here in London today.
PrivateFly.com edged past niche travel company Planet, Round Trip Systems and Vestibule Solutions in the final round.
The contest, conducted as part of EyeforTravel's Travel Distribution Summit Europe 2008, featured 20 innovative companies (comprising B2B and B2C models), selected to pitch to five of the industry's biggest investors.
The contest was chaired by David Scowsill, chairman, Yuuguu; and investors or dragon's were Dick Porter, co-founder and director, STA Travel; Hugo Burge, founder, Howzat Media; Jason Katz, founder, KP Capital; Gerry Samuels, CEO, Travel Capital; John Kent, CEO, youtravel.com.
PrivateFly combines market price comparison with an online auction house allowing customers direct access to 700 charter companies in Europe and the Middle East. The concept is about matching customers (looking to charter an aircraft) with operators needing passenger. Before the launch of the venture in September last year, the private jet customer could only book directly with an operator or use a traditional broker.
"I am thrilled. To get vote of confidence in such an early stage of our venture, is a testimony of the fact that we are on the right track. And approval from the travel trade is equally important as we are working with travel agents, sports agents, concierge services and others," Adam Twidell, founder of PrivateFly told EyeForTravel.com's Ritesh Gupta.
On how the concept came about, Twidell said he spent 10 years as a pilot in the RAF, followed by three years in Private Aviation with Net Jets, the market leader. "During this time I saw an opportunity at RAF Northholt to develop a jet handling business there. I took this idea to London City, where I successfully led a pitch, we won and Northolt is now London's premier private jet hub. On the ground, I saw the industry from all sides and realised the huge gap in the market for a private jet booking service and communication network. Hence PrivateFly."
In terms of benefits, the client gets quality aircraft, consistent service and the best price, whereas the operator gets the business.
Carol Cork, communications head, PrivateFly, "Charter is hit-and-miss and a very fragmented market. PrivateFly does not own or manage jets. PrivateFly matches customers, who are looking to charter a private jet but don't know how, with operators who need passengers but don't have the knowledge to market themselves. We help them in finding the right operator at the right price. PrivateFly allows transparent comparison of the whole market, with auction built in, encouraging competitive bids from operators. PrivateFly takes a risk-free margin, builds loyalty and contacts from both parties."
The company is currently working on its website (www. privatefly.com), expected to be ready in the next 3-4 weeks.
Travel's `Dragon's Den' contest
The winner was chosen by the virtue of the voting by the audience (attendees for the Travel Distribution Summit Europe 2008). Voting was done on basis of the strength of the concept and investment potential (Voting criteria: 1 = bad, 5 = excellent). PrivateFly got maximum votes on both the counts: it got a score of 551 for its concept and 437 for investment potential. Others' score was as follows: Concept (Planet 445, RTS 469 and Vestibule Solutions 428); Investment (Planet 378, RTS 404 and Vestibule Solutions 372).
Sharing his viewpoint, experienced travel industry executive Hugo Burge said, "There is definitely potential (in this venture). PrivateFly is bringing transparency in the market and the business already has gained traction. Apart from the fact that its promoter has pumped in his own savings, the business is showing promise in terms of cash flow. In all, it's a great start."
On the two-day event, Scowsill said, "We saw 20 excellent companies presenting on the first day which made it extremely difficult to pick four finalists. Companies that showed the most interesting concept and most importantly the investment potential made it to the final round."
The prize for the winner – £7,000 worth of advertising and exposure to the industry through EyeforTravel's publications and events, unique opportunity of exposure to travel industry investors and the benefit of putting their business on track with extra funding.
The focus of the initiative was to assess:
· Where are the travel industry's most successful money men investing in 2008?
· What new travel products will soon be tempting your customers?
· What are today's travel entrepreneurs creating?
The businesses were judged on the idea/concept, people in the team, presentation, business awareness and acumen, customer orientation and investment potential.
Companies part of the contest:
B2B Companies: Digital Visitor, Travelist, Vestibule Solutions, European Rail, Zimbie, Round Trip Systems, Elounda, Sunverse.