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Online private jet booking platform Victor has recently received US$8m in mezzanine funding. Founder and CEO Clive Jackson talks exclusively to Business Airport International about how the company is growing and how technology is playing an increasingly important role in the business aviation industry
How did you identify a need for this type of booking service for the private aviation industry?
I was a frustrated consumer, disillusioned with the fact there was no easy way to book a jet other than having to call a middleman. There was no transparency in the process; there was no disclosure over the supplier, or the type or age of the aircraft, until after I had made a commitment to buy. I had no idea about the amount of supply in the market, so it was very difficult to determine whether I was getting good value. That was the driver for me thinking that I could do something different.
A number of competitors have joined the market in recent years – how do you differentiate yourself?
For a start, Victor’s proposition was constructed by 20 like-minded jet charterers who have become shareholders in the company and who frequently fly by private jet. Together, we rewrote the rulebook of on-demand jet charter: what it needed to represent, where technology will play a part in the process, and how to maintain the combination of high touch and high tech.
Today, 45 months on since we launched in August 2011, Victor is still the only provider of on-demand jet charter offering full transparency at the point of quote request. We also commit to a fixed, capped booking margin, ensuring our users remain in control, have full visibility of the buying process, and can make their own value judgement over who they choose to fly with. That is important, along with back-up from a highly experienced team in the UK and the USA. We want to always give customers the comfort that if they need to speak to someone they can, and if they want to view or manage any part of the process – quote-request, book, buy, compare, fly – they can do so digitally if they wish. They have that visibility, choice and control.
How will you invest the US$8m you have recently received in mezzanine funding?
Our two principal areas for investment are technology and international expansion, further developing our brand. The funding is being used to expand our services into the US market, which is the largest region for private aviation, accounting for 49.7% of the global market, with Europe providing a 20.8% share. Expanding our operations to the USA ensures we have a presence in the most dominant market, better serving our customers in the region.
How can technology help to open up the private aviation industry to a wider audience?
Technology is making private aviation more accessible by making the charter process faster and easier. The transparency and choice technology brings increases consumer knowledge and trust – then, consumers make a value judgement and discover for themselves that, in most instances, private jet travel is more affordable than they first thought. So together, accessibility and affordability will drive up usage.
What else can be done to expand the market?
We need to drive the message out into the wider consumer consciousness, and out to the partners involved in providing all forms of travel-related services, that Victor is a brand developed from the outset to offer the most exemplary customer experience. Whether it is a customer booking direct or a travel management booking, people must know there are standards we adhere to that set the benchmark for all others, that there is complete transparency over pricing and margins, and that our consumer guarantee ensures customers’ needs come first.
What are the top things high-net-worth individuals look for when booking a private jet?
Credibility. Most often this will mean a first-hand, word-of-mouth recommendation from a member of their immediate peer group, or a testimonial from a well-known brand or corporate partner that provides a point of reference, for instance, Time Warner Music for whom Victor is the official European supplier.
Companies with multiple offices, 24-7 customer service and credible senior management – demonstrating genuine expertise in the world of travel, aviation and service – are other attractive factors.
How will the business aviation market develop in the future and what role will technology play?
With growth of the ultra-high-net-worth consumer base continuing and accelerating, further growth in private jet charter is expected alongside it. Technology will make the whole process faster and easier than ever before, making it accessible and opening it up to a wider audience.
This should not be about putting glossy new websites or apps into the market. Those who are going to win in this space must offer genuine back-office integration, business processing and start-automation. This will lower the cost of transaction or the cost of administration, over an old-world player who is doing everything manually. When you think about scaling businesses on a global basis, costs of scale and operational costs are invariably their downfall. So, it is not just about gaining market share; it is about being able to sustain your position in the market, so your cost-per-transaction through technology has to be dramatically lower.
About Clive Jackson
Serial entrepreneur Clive Jackson founded Victor in 2011, borne out of personal frustration with commercial air travel and an antiquated jet charter broker industry. With financial backing from Clive’s fellow private fliers, Victor is funded by its target market – ultra-high-net-worth individuals. Since founding the business in 2011, Clive has brought together a team of 50 aviation, technology, logistics and customer service experts operating out of Victor’s London HQ and soon from offices around the world. For the past 20 years, Clive has been at the forefront of the digital revolution, developing innovative web services for luxury brands, financial services, technology and media. It is Clive’s unique blend of creative vision and deep technical knowledge that makes Victor a true ‘company to watch’.
July 6, 2015