Tuesday, March 12, 2019

startup usa

startup usa

Uber-For-Planes Startup BlackBird Raises $10 Million To Replace Road Trips With Flying Private - Forbes

Posted: 12 Mar 2019 06:00 AM PDT

Blackbird private airplane

BlackBird wants to replace driving with private airplane travel.@2018 New Revolution Media

If Rudd Davis' vision comes true, the days of the road trip will be over—or at least massively curtailed. The former USA Today and Groupon executive wants to make flying private as affordable as driving and have it become the go-to option for any 50-to-500-mile trip. The biggest challenge, he says, is getting people to buy into the belief.

"If they think luxury air travel, they shouldn't think about us. There are no couches on our planes," Davis told Forbes.

Instead, Davis has spent the last three years building BlackBird, a startup that connects passengers with private planes and pilots. Passengers can join an existing flight plan and purchase open seats on the flight. Or customers can charter a plane to travel from, say, the San Francisco Bay Area to Lake Tahoe, and then pick a pilot from BlackBird's preapproved list of commercially trained pilots. "BlackBird has become an alternative to driving," Davis said.

BlackBird founder and CEO Rudd Davis

BlackBird founder and CEO Rudd DavisBlackbird

It's not just Davis who believes in this vision. On Tuesday, BlackBird announced that it had raised $10 million from Silicon Valley venture firm NEA. Jonathan Golden, a partner at NEA and a former Airbnb director, will join the board.

BlackBird's growth reminds Golden of the early days of Airbnb and Lyft, when people had to learn a new behavior like sharing a car or sleeping in someone's house. A private driver used to be something only the elite could afford. Now hailing a ride whenever you need it is commonplace. Golden sees BlackBird repeating the same thing with private air travel.

"The initial reaction may be kind of a question mark, but when you really dig in, it's more of a perception vs. reality," Golden told Forbes. "It's really been demonstrated by the appetite and demand for the product."

Still, whether BlackBird can amass enough demand to drive down prices remains an existential question. Prices for flights from Oakland to Las Vegas ranged from $99 to join a prearranged flight to over $1,100 a seat for customers to charter their own. Plus, passengers may want a car when they reach their destination, meaning rental car fees could challenge just how affordable flying private really is.

Plane selection on BlackBird.

Plane selection on BlackBird.BlackBird

Then there's the challenge of getting enough airplanes and pilots onto BlackBird's network. Unlike Lyft, Uber or Airbnb, which could rely on the fact that a lot of people having cars or houses, most people don't own airplanes. BlackBird currently sources most of its planes by contracting through flight clubs or existing networks like JetSuiteX. Recruiting pilots could also pose a problem as BlackBird grows; the U.S. already faces a pilot shortage, and training to become a pilot isn't cheap.

Regulations are another hurdle and part of the reason it's taken Davis three years to land on a business model. In 2015, the FAA grounded a few startups, like AirPooler and Flytenow, that had tried building a flight-sharing model by connecting private pilots to passengers willing to pay. Flytenow even tried taking its case to the Supreme Court, but the court declined to hear it and the company shut down.

That's not a good precedent for this kind of business, but Davis is confident BlackBird has steered around any legal problems by working basically as a chartering service that connects everyday passengers with pilots and planes.

"Really, what it's about is keeping our prices low so people get the opportunity to try this product, and adding supply to keep up with the ever-growing demand," Davis said. The $10 million in funding will go toward doing just that.

Ukrainian-Russian startup raises $1.5mn to teach English to Polish and Spanish kids - bne IntelliNews

Posted: 12 Mar 2019 12:07 AM PDT

AllRight.io, an e-learning startup with Ukrainian and Russian roots, has just secured $1.5mn in a funding round led by Buran Venture Capital, reports East-West Digital News (EWDN).

Founded in 2017, AllRight provides children aged 4-12 with courses of English as a foreign language. The startup claims to serve more than 1,700 active users monthly, essentially from Russia, with 150 teachers coming from a variety of countries across the world.

Soon after launch, the startup received an initial capital injection of "several hundreds of thousand $," said its founder, Ukrainian born Oleg Oksyuk, in an exchange with East-West Digital News.

This unnamed individual investor also took part in the latest round.

The fresh funding will help AllRight develop further its product, strengthen its position in its native Russian market, and expand to new markets.

"We launched our service in Spain and Poland just few weeks ago," Oksyuk told EWDN. "Our product is now fully adapted to three languages [English, Polish and Spanish] with ten teachers who speak these three languages as well as sales and customer support available to users from these countries."

The startup is registered in the USA, even though its team is still established mostly in Eastern Europe.

Operating essentially in Russia, Hungary and Israel, Buran Venture Capital has several e-learning startups in its portfolio – including Netology, a leading online education platform in Russia, and Learn2play, an eSports learning platform.

"Our experience in the online education sector makes us confident that the large size of the market, combined with low level of technology adoption, leaves plenty of room for development of online services," stated Mihaly Szalontay, the fund's managing partner.

"The way kids learn is rapidly evolving and AllRight is well positioned to disrupt the English teaching industry," he added.

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