How will the next generation of passenger aircraft be powered? We may all shortly switch to electric cars, but the aviation sector is a major user of energy in the form of fossil fuels, so it’s quite natural (and comforting) there’s currently a quest to develop aircraft that may first maximise the use of electricity, and – who knows – maybe go “full Hyperloop”.
But how is the next generation of aviation business startups going to be fuelled? What propellants are available to ignite and drive the efforts of entrepreneurs setting up the next wave of aviation businesses?
Shannon Group’s International Aviation Services Centre (IASC) and DCU Ryan Academy for Entrepreneurs came together to see how they might help innovators in the Aviation and Travel Tech space (pun intended) take off.
And the Propeller Shannon Accelerator was established- supported by Enterprise Ireland, and partnering with Boeing and Datalex: its aim - to accelerate early stage technology startup companies, both Irish and international, in Dublin.
Propeller Shannon has proved a hit with the startups who manage to get on to the programme. The mentor-led, three months incubation period, along with a service, advice and cash-for-equity deal, is proving exactly what participating companies need to help them start realising their ambitions.
Conversations with members of the current cohort give a good sense of how Propeller Shannon is making a difference.
Aviation technology startup Frequency has developed a smart device communication system using VoIP to enhance the performance of all existing communications currently used by commercial airlines. Justin Perry, co-Founder and CEO, is clear that Propeller gives him expertise to which he would not have been exposed as a former commercial airline pilot: “The mentoring that comes as part of the programme has been really useful. The industry-specific knowledge has been superb, and the connections we’ve had opened up to us have been immediately productive, like the European Space Agency, for example. The San Francisco trip was a highlight for us: we won an award at the event, and made connections with American Airlines, JetBlue and Swissport.”
Gerry Hanratty, Founder and CEO of Staypal.io, whose focus is providing an engagement platform for hotel guests, said that involvement in Propeller Shannon has been invaluable, even for the Finance module alone: “When we got to Finance, the aspect that really resonated for me was creating appropriate financial models. It’s been brilliant. I’d tried very hard to find suitable financial modules for start-ups on-line, but after a long time looking around, found nothing. But the Propeller Shannon financial module was perfectly balanced for us: I’d nearly do it again!” In respect of the overall impact of the Programme on Staypal’s business development approach, there was also valuable learning: “It quickly became clear to us that in the TravelTech sector there’s the need for interoperability between systems and platforms. It’s essential to find and work with partners, especially for small businesses. You can’t break in otherwise. So for us, to connect with the VCs backed by aviation groups, for example, has been essential.”
Shannon Group and the Ryan Academy will shortly inviting applications for Cycle Two of Propeller Shannon, with the next cohort due to start in January 2019.
Ryan Academy CEO, Donal Brady, is looking forward to meeting the successful applicants. “The ambition and energy of the current Cohort has been great to be around. Their response to the programme, with its upskilling, meetings with expert mentors and advisors, plus the impact of getting to meet and pitch to aviation heavyweights has been very rewarding to witness. We expect a strong demand for participation in Cycle Two.”