Everything Tech puts questions to Jonny Nicol, Founder and CEO of Stratajet to find out more about his background, where the idea of Stratajet came from and how it works.
Stratajet is a growing company and was recently ranked 5th in Deloitte’s UK Technology Fast 50. Through their website you can book from a large range of private jets and using their advanced algorithm get the best price.
Could you tell me a bit about your background prior to founding Stratajet?
I trained as a fighter pilot with the RAF and then served in the British Army for ten years, during which time I served on three major operational tours. I taught myself computer science along the way and when I left the army, I used this knowledge to build a company that was based on using technology to streamline very traditional processes. My journey as an entrepreneur had begun!
Where did the initial lightbulb moment for Stratajet come from?
After serving with the British Armed Forces, I spent some time as a corporate freelance pilot, which included flying private jets. On one occasion I was flying a jet from Nice to London with no passengers, as the aircraft simply had to be repositioned. Problems like this – inefficiency and wastage – were resulting in hiked prices for passengers and holding back private jets from being accepted as a valid form of transport. In my opinion, the concept of elitism and luxury has outgrown what private jets were originally invented for; and that’s efficiency of travel. So my idea was to again use technology to streamline the old-fashioned process of booking a private jet. I set about building a software that would bring private jets online for the first time and reinvent the industry. The aim of Stratajet is to make private jets more accessible to the mainstream traveller.
Can you provide an overview of how Stratajet works?
Stratajet is a private jet booking platform – available via Stratajet.com or the Stratajet app – that is the first in the world to give fliers direct access to the private jet marketplace.
The technical bit is really very technical indeed. The major issue in private jets comes in the complexity of calculating the cost of a flight. There are millions of variables and since every flight has to be calculated from scratch – due to the bespoke nature of the industry – it takes the most experienced aircraft operator around half an hour to provide a quote manually.
In contrast, Stratajet is the only platform that has built, from scratch, a technology that can make these calculations on it’s own. This means that aircraft are right at fliers’ fingertips. We make it easier than ever before to get from A to B by allowing customers to search for a particular flight, without having to go through a broker, see accurate costs of as many as 50 aircraft available to charter for that flight – not just a select few – and book instantly.
What was the hardest part about bringing Stratajet to market and how does Stratajet differentiate itself from competitors in the private jet market?
It took a long time to build the technology and at one point we ran out of investor funding. To bring the booking process online we needed to gather an inordinate amount of data and code it into an exceptionally complex algorithm, which would allow for all these calculations to be done in seconds.
Once we’d built the programme, the first time we ran a search it took 20mins to return all the results. So we then had to slowly chip away at this time by refining the system. It was a long, hard slog to get it down but eventually we had a breakthrough which reduced the time to around 10 seconds – and that speed of process drives the platform today.
Other providers have different models but they are still based on the principle of a broker organising your flight requirements for you. Even platforms that claim to provide an online service don’t actually do this. Rather their websites collect flight requests and these are then pushed out to operators, who have to manually calculate the costs.
Once quotes are delivered, you then have to finalise the booking with your broker. It’s a terribly long-winded, convoluted and inefficient process and, due to commissions taken by the broker, unnecessarily pricey.
What are your future ambitions for Stratajet?
Having successfully launched the platform our key focus is to maintain growth. We are continually speaking to operators in order to expand our network with the aim of bringing more aircraft onto the system. As this number rises, more and more flights will become available at reduced prices to the customer.
We hope that there will be an industry defining moment when people will say there was private aviation before Stratajet and private aviation after Stratajet.
What developments do you envisage in the sector in next few years and how will this impact your future plans?
That’s an interesting question because the sector has only in the last two years benefitted from its first genuine development, in terms of innovation in booking aircraft. Stratajet’s technology is the first real change in this process since the inception of private jets some 50 years ago. As more and more aircraft are brought onto the system, there will be a continual downward curve in terms of cost to travellers. And when we’re regularly able to compete with commercial costs, there will be a major shift in the way in which people perceive this industry.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
This innovation has truly revolutionised what has been – for some years now – a stagnant market. Through technology, we’re seeing very real results in terms of positioning private jets as a valid means of travel for a far wider audience of fliers. The result One of the achievements that I’m most proud of is the extent to which we’re able to attract new customers to the industry. A third of our customers are first-time private jet fliers, which is a staggering statistic when compared to the industry norm of less than one per cent.