Blade: The Private Flight Startup

 

This week, over 130,000 millennials will descend on Palm Springs, California for the annual Coachella Music Festival. And for those not willing to make the 2 hour drive from LAX to the desert, there is now a new option: Blade. Now, thanks to a new $38 million round of funding, the NYC-based private helicopter company is setting its sites on expansion.

How Blade Works

Founded in 2014 by former Sony and Warner Music Group executive Rob Wiesenthal, and GroupMe co-founder Steve Martocci, it hasn’t taken long for Blade to become known as the, ‘Uber of helicopters’. In order to book a flight, a customer must first download the Blade app, then decided if they want to join an existing flight, start a new flight and allow other passengers to join, or book their very own totally private flight. From there passengers proceed to one Blade’s private lounges where they are treated to Blade’s many amenities before they board the flight.

Pricing and Destinations

Tickets start around $195 for a five-minute ‘bounce’ flight. These bounce flights travel from one of Blade’s NYC lounges to the surrounding airports and are a good option to beat the traffic. Longer flights predictably cost more. For example, a one-way ticket from New York City to Miami on the private jet service called, Blade One, costs around $2,200. Tickets from New York City to the Hamptons range anywhere from $500-$700.

Along with helicopters and private jets, the company also offers flights on seaplanes as well. Currently, the most popular route is from NYC to the Hamptons, and Blade currently flies to more than a dozen locations. These destinations include Miami, Los Angeles, Nantucket, and the Jersey Shore just to name a few. According to a company press release, the latest $38 million round of funding will be used to expand to new routes, including to destinations overseas.

A Wise Investment

Initially, the company raised $6 million in seed funding from six investors, including IAC’s Barry Diller, and Google’s Eric Schmidt. This round was followed in 2016 by a second round of Series A funding for an undisclosed amount and was subsequently followed by this latest round of Series B funding which closed on March 22, 2018. All-in, to date the company has raised a reported $44 million in funding, and has an estimated $150 million valuation.

While the client base for the company’s services skew toward the well-heeled, the short distance aviation model has thus far proven popular. The company is only four years old and is still considered in early-stage funding, but according to Pitchbook, the company has already become profitable. Whether or not Blade will compete with the larger-scale air carriers remains yet to be seen, but as of now Blade has carved out a very nice niche market.

 

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