Aviation Pitch Night: these FIVE startups are disrupting travel’s most complex vertical

With so many moving parts and interdependent elements, aviation is a complex industry. It’s also highly regulated and global, requiring collaboration and cooperation between all kinds of stakeholders to operate smoothly. 

As a result, technology filters slowly through the system. Whether its streamlining data sharing among operators (such as sharing delay data with other providers on a traveler’s itinerary), building a more sustainable industry, or upgrading the air traffic control systems, these are especially massive challenges on a global scale. 

Startups are perfectly positioned to tackle some of these challenges -- which is why Voyager HQ is hosting our first-ever Aviation Pitch Night powered by JetBlue Technology Ventures. We’ll be highlighting innovative startups that are leading the industry forward with new technologies for air travel and aviation.

Here’s a preview of the startups who will be taking the stage next week - Register here to join us! And a special thank you to those that are making our Aviation Pitch Night possible, JetBlue Technology Ventures, our Global Sponsor Fareportal, and our preferred sponsor TripMate.

Meet our startups

We're excited to share the five startups presenting at the aviation edition of Travel Pitch Night on October 1st in NYC. The event starts at 6:30 pm at Company, a multi-tenant tech campus that houses a curated community of top-tier companies spanning the innovation spectrum from venture-backed startups to large enterprises. The judging panel includes Raj Singh, Managing Director of Investments at JetBlue Technology Ventures, Daniel Benz, Director Regional Sales Products and Programs for the Americas of Lufthansa Group and Jill Menze, News Editor of Phocuswire. More judges are being announced soon!

Our chosen startups were selected from a wide range of applicants from across the global network of Voyager HQ.

As with all Travel Pitch Nights, each company will pitch for five minutes, followed by an additional five minutes for questions from both judges and the audience.Audience questions are submitted via mobile device, and appear on-screen behind the startup presenter in real-time. 

After the startups have presented, judges and audience will evaluate each startup based on five criteria: their business model, quality of presentation, product-market fit, fundability, and sustainability - or potential for positive global impact. 

Read on for the five startups competing for the winning title, as well as each founder’s take on the core problem their startup is solving.

Pilota

Pilota helps travel management companies (TMCs) minimize the costs of disruption. With automatic, continuous monitoring of all client flights (including backups), Pilota predicts problems and proactively re-routes travelers. 

The automated nature of the service reduces stress for travelers (helping TMCs with duty-of-care) and ultimately saves money by intelligently rebooking travelers. This is all done with machine learning, which allows Pilota to predict the risk of disruption associated with a given flight.

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What is the core problem you are solving?

Saniya Shah, Co-Founder & CEO: We are solving flight disruptions. It is a problem that every traveler faces and is a huge pain point for all members of the travel ecosystem but has been difficult to alleviate. Our team is a team of explorers, we each have traveled and lived all over the world and one of our team members is even a licensed pilot! So we have observed the industry for many years and wanted to find a way to leverage our technical backgrounds to improve the traveler experience.

Timing is everything with startups. The team also plays a big role in future success. Why is now the time to solve this problem? And why is your startup's team the right team to solve this problem?

SS: The travel industry is beginning to look at emerging technologies and adapt them for the industry. Many legacy technologies and systems are being replaced with cutting edge solutions. Along with this, corporate travel and the travel management industry is on the rise and these companies are looking to provide/receive the best traveler experience. We are leveraging emerging technology to provide this elevated experience to travelers. 

SITATa

Sitata is a digital travel companion that acts as a travel manager, providing duty-of-care for both managed and independent travelers. The way it works: travelers either connect directly to a travel agency or forward itineraries and then the system will monitor for any disruptions (from flight delays to natural disasters) to notify travelers of any anomalies.

What is the core problem you are solving?

Adam St. John, CEO & Founder: Each year more than 240 million travelers seek assistance when abroad, yet mobile technology is completely failing to prevent travel mishaps, and there's nothing to support you when something does occur. Sitata is the ideal travel companion so you can travel worry-free.

Why did you decide to start a company focused on aviation?

ASJ: Sitata is tangential to the aviation industry. We provide worry-free travel by keeping travellers informed about any type of travel disruption, from flight delays through to violence, transit strikes, protests, extreme weather, and more, and by connecting travellers to trusted sources of assistance when they need help. The aviation industry is the backbone of global travel and there are quite a few different ways we support it whether that's ensuring the staff of the airlines themselves stay safe and healthy, or by partnering with airlines to add a unique, protection element to their services to offer their customers.

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aEROSPACE TECHNOLOGY VENTURES

Aerospace Technology Ventures focuses on air charter solutions that use data to help its clients improve flight operations, enhance customer experience, and increase sales. The objective is for clients to get greater return on assets, thanks to products like its Flight Operations Platform, Airvel Charter Marketplace, and Airvel Connect for operators to manage their aircraft in the marketplace. The suite of solutions is tailored to air charter operators, search engines, travel agencies, tour operators, and air freight operators. 

What is the core problem you are solving?

Joseph Plowman, CEO: Aerospace Technology Ventures is focused on creating an empowered experience for air charter operators of all sizes and air charter consumers through a multi sided marketplace.  Air charter operators will now have a platform to list their fleet of aircraft that will be available to book on Airvel.com, the operator’s own website, and through any OTA using our APIs. We’re bringing air charter operators more revenue opportunities through sales qualified leads.  The air charter consumer can instantly search, filter, sort, book and manage their trip easily through Airvel.com or any of our partner’s websites.  


For the first time, the air charter consumer can communicate directly with the air charter operator and book with confidence.  All of this with no membership requirements, jet cards or fees.

Any accomplishments that you are especially proud of so far in your startup journey?

JP: Aerospace Technology Ventures has built an amazing team of specialists, but our culture design has been very intentional, and I think we’ve done a great job hiring people passionate to solve an industry-wide problem for business aviation.   

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JET-SET OFFSET

Jet-Set Offset tackles a recent trend in travel: an avoidance of air travel due to the climate crisis. Founder Anna Ford, who had been a road warrior, wanted to reduce the impact of aviation emissions, as every round-trip flight from NYC to London releases enough carbon to melt 30 square feet of Arctic ice.

To do this, the service donates one cent for every mile flown. After signing up, users can select an organization to support and upload flights for calculation. The company then makes the donation on behalf of the traveler. There's also an option to use booking confirmation emails to calculate and donate automatically. 

What is the core problem you are solving?

Anna Ford, Co-Founder: Last year, Americans flew a record-high 1.5 trillion miles. Carbon emissions from jet-fuel have been increasing by 5% per year. Aviation is one of the largest contributors of carbon emissions in the United States and around the world. 

Innovation in a cleaner, greener air travel lags behind other transportation industries because of political, technological, and market challenges. But reducing air travel is not a realistic proposition for many of us, and there are so many cultural, economic, and educational benefits to going abroad.

Timing is everything with startups. Why is now the time to solve this problem?

AF: Public consciousness of the environmental impact of air travel is growing quickly. Flight shame now has its own Swedish word, flygskam. This week, Greta Thornburg spoke to Congress and led the youth climate strike in NYC. She took a sailboat to get here. There is an urgency to cutting global CO2 levels and taking climate action like never before.

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BNDWGN

BNDWGN is a novel take on the age-old problem of inspiring others to join a group trip. By using video, a trip organizer can send out a link to a group to get them to book a trip individually. The organizer films a 15-second video, inputs the trip details, and then shares a link.

Anyone with that link can then “join the bandwagon” and book the trip directly. Whether its an influencer sharing a trip to followers online or organizations like churches and sports teams, the simple sharing mechanism reduces email threads, confusion, and delays in booking. It streamlines the painful process of gathering group bookings, says co-founder.

What is the core problem you are solving?

Hans Marshalleck, Co-Founder: Group travel is still done by phone. Using a short video to organize a group seems like a new and awesome way to approach to booking group trip. We would like to think there are other opportunities in influencer marketing, college trips and church and community groups. Our startup hopes to test that hypothesis. We also hope to add a few surprises as we grow.

Why did you decide to start a company focused on aviation?

HM: I love planes. As a toddler I used to pray for planes that flew overhead. Bless the front of the plane the back of the plane and the smoke that comes out. One of my earliest memories was sitting in the cockpit of a DC-9. I became obsessed with solving the problem of group travel after booking a group trip for my wedding in 2009. Being the trip leader and groom was not a good idea. I felt that software could solve the problem. In 2012 I joined Google for Startup online program using  a web enabled excel sheet as the first concept. I have toyed with various business models over the years.

Ready to join us for Aviation Pitch Night? Grab your tickets here — and we'll see you in New York City on October 1!