The original story of BlackBird, a startup that connects travelers to planes and commercial pilots via an app, has not started with air travel. It was caused by car sickness.
The CEO and founder of BlackBird, Rudd Davis, who had his pilot's license, asked his flight instructor if he would send his family to Tahoe, his son falling seriously ill every time they traveled by car. What Rudd has discovered is an incredible experience, far more affordable than he has achieved.
Davis launched the company in 2016 and has spent the last two years perfecting its business model while adding pilots and business members. Now, thanks to the new capital of New Enterprise Associates, BlackBird is ready to spread its wings.
The company said Tuesday it raised $ 10 million during a series A round led by the NEA. Jonathan Golden, a NEA partner who previously worked for Airbnb, joined Blackird's board of directors alongside Françoise Brougher of Pinterest, Square and Google, and Andrew Swain, also a member of Airbnb.
BlackBird has also hired Brian Hsu, who spent a decade on eBay and recently held the position of vice president of procurement at Lyft, as chief operating officer. Davis is counting on Hsu, who has experience in developing markets, to help Blackdird grow its membership and reach.
The company will use this new capital injection to increase its number of users, drivers and employees.
BlackBird currently has more than 700 commercial pilots flying passengers between 50 and 500 miles from California. For the moment, Davis said that it was a self-imposed geographical restriction.
"We are trying to increase density, strengthen the network, and optimize it before we start replicating it in other regions," said Davis.
He faces challenges. BlackBird needs to find the preferential rate per seat, which depends largely on the number of users and drivers present on the platform. Seats can cost around $ 80 or more than $ 900 depending on route, pilot availability and demand. In addition, BlackBird must fight against misconceptions about what and who the platform is for.
"Many people have visited this space before and have really come empty-handed," said Golden, a seed investor of BlackBird before joining NEA.
Golden adds that what makes Blackbird so appealing is that it's not about luxury travel, but rather about how to actually replace driving by flight, which is really convincing.
"When most people think of flying non-commercially, they think of huge jets with couches and billionaires," said Davis. "And this is not the whole of general aviation; aviation is very large. It just has not been so accessible. "