While at an age at which most recent college grads are trying to figure out how they’ll pay off their school loans, Sergey Petrossov founded and currently serves as CEO of what is now a $1.5 billion private company with near-global reach. He also has a set of investors that includes the likes of the Saudi royal family and hip hop icon Jay-Z.
Innovation is a matter of seeing a hole in the market and coming up with the product or service to fill that hole. That’s what Petrossov did in the field of high-end commercial air travel, with JetSmarter.
The company started as the result of market research conducted by Petrossov for a charter jet company. Highlights of what he found about the industry included the following:
- Most charter jets only carry passenger 200 hours a year when 1,500 hours are possible
- Even while in the air, the typical jet only has passengers one-third of the time; the rest of the time they’re traveling empty, to and from airports
- When the meter is running, the average charter jet is only about 25 to 30 percent full
But Petrossov also found that the market for charter jet travel was strong. Worldwide, some 21,000 charter jet trips are booked daily. On the other hand, there are also about 18,000 jets to fulfill those opportunities. So while the need is strong, Petrossov found there to be something of a glut of providers.
The secret sauce, he felt, was to make more efficient use of charter jet availability.
Dealmaker in the Air
The child immigrant from Russia and 2009 graduate of the University of Florida came up with an innovation that would get him, at the tender age of 27, recognition as one of Forbes magazine’s “30 Under 30” roundup of entrepreneurs and difference-makers.
The focal point of JetSmarter is a phone app and a business model that shares some characteristics of the rideshare industry. But instead of contracting with a bunch of car drivers, JetSmarter signs deals with the owners of jets for charter.
The company’s 8,000 members can then “rideshare” a jet in one of three ways:
- Charter their own, much like a more conventional industry transaction
- Ride along with others on JetSmarter shuttle flights
- Share a chartered jet with other travelers going to the same destination
The next step, beyond expanding the company’s global footprint even further, is to add product and services offerings of interest to his captured upscale customer base. How hard can that be after solving the charter jet industry before hitting 30?