BlackJet – a startup which aimed to be like Uber but for on-demand private jets – ceased operations last Thursday.
The company was backed by celebrities including Ashton Kutcher, Will Smith, and Jay Z’s company Roc Nation, as well as tech execs such as Salesforce’s Mark Benioff. It was even originally supported by Uber cofounder Garrett Camp.
So what went wrong?
We spoke to Clive Jackson – CEO and founder of Victor, which claims to be the world’s fastest-growing on-demand private jet charter compan and has raised more than $24 million investment to date – to get his perspective.
Jackson explained that BlackJet, which sold seats on a shuttle service was “intrinsically … at odds with those that traditionally fly private.”
Rather than allowing flyers to charter jets on-demand like Victor, BlackJet required an annual fee, giving members access to a network of jets on which they could book seats on pre-determined routes.
Jackson said that “Uber for airplane” operators who try to operate shuttle services should “really go and talk to O’Leary [CEO of Ryanair] or Stelios [owner of EasyJet] about how to do shuttle. Intrinsically, they are not flying small planes, they are flying larger planes with more seats.”
Speaking about celebrity investors in BlackJet and the wider industry, Jackson had this advice:
“I think anyone that is looking to invest in this sector has to do proper due diligence. Typically, angel-style investors tend not to do that, or do it very well at all. My advice to anyone looking to invest in this sector is: don’t take verbatim what you are being told … Do go out there and undertake some proper due diligence.”
BlackJet CEO Dean Rotchin cited investment problems for his company’s ceasing of operations in an interview with Fortune: “We probably did more with less than anyone but it’s a critical mass business,” Rotchin said. “There’s a reason why ‘critical’ is part of ‘critical mass’.”
Rotchin also blamed an article from TechCrunch last month that inaccurately prematurely reported the company had shut down for accelerating the BlackJet’s closure. TechCrunch later updated the story with a correction.