JetSmarter has raised $105 million in Series C funding, at a $1.5 billion pre-money valuation, to build its marketplace for private jet services, according to Sergey Petrossov, the startup’s founder and CEO.
The massive funding round will be used primarily for global expansion of JetSmarter in Asia and Latin America, Petrossov said, and increasing the number of routes and flights available to JetSmarter members in the U.S.
The company’s app, which TechCrunch reviewed here, allows travelers to book a seat on a private jet via the company’s JetShuttle service, or to charter an entire plane if their entourage rolls deep.
While anyone can download and evaluate its app, before flying JetSmarter, members go through a light background check then pay $15,000 for a “core membership” in the first year they join. Members then get a seat on a wide selection of flights “free,” but have to pay for companion tickets if they want to bring a non-member along or pay to charter whole planes.
Members of the Saudi royal family, and hip hop icon and entrepreneur Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter, earlier backers of JetSmarter, increased their investments in the startup with this round.
New investors in JetSmarter included an Abu Dhabi-based equity fund, JetEdge (the global private aviation company that operates fleets of large cabin jets), KZ Capital in London, a Qatar-based private equity fund and other strategic backers the company did not have permission to name.
Today, JetSmarter connects travelers to flights in 50 markets around the world, including New York, Chicago, Fort Lauderdale, Las Vegas, Atlanta, London, Paris, Moscow, Dubai, Milan and other business and leisure travel hubs. Petrossov said he wants to expand to be available in 80 to 100 markets by the end of 2017.
And the company wants to connect more cities on the U.S. map, including connecting Florida destinations to Boston, New York and Washington, D.C., and San Francisco to Seattle.
XOJET President and CEO Bradley Stewart, who is also a senior advisor to private equity firm TPG, has joined JetSmarter’s board with the most recent round of funding. The companies earlier struck a partnership that allowed JetSmarter to expand its offering of flights in North America.
JetSmarter has been able to grow rapidly in private aviation where other players, like Beacon or BlackJet, which was also counted Jay-Z among its backers, have faded away.
Petrossov said, “We scale from the community. We use predictive maps and algorithms to find where the demand is, so that we will never over supply the market, and can just meet the amount of demand we have. Other companies would over supply and fly where they’d have 20% loads. We have zero deadhead weight on our shuttles and a 90% load factor.”
JetSmarter doesn’t own any planes, but instead works with operators, owners and carriers who manage and maintain the planes, hire pilots and deal with safety and compliance issues for the heavily regulated industry.
Being a software-driven, asset-light business, Petrossov and his backers often compare JetSmarter to an Uber for the skies.
The company is hoping to go even further in that direction with something like “on-demand” access to seats on a select number of private flights for non-members. They would pay basically $1 per mile for shorter trips, like Boston to New York, potentially.
Petrossov said, “Everything we do is about making flying fun again.”