Czech startup strafos was founded four years ago with the idea of bringing a business platform to the aviation industry that would innovate the world of private flights. Flights with private jets are the regular bread and butter of most airports and customers are spread all over the world. strafos is coming up with a new application that will improve calculations and processes to keep both the client and the airline happy.
Private flights are for now only for a narrow clientele, but by improving and optimizing all processes, the financial costs could be reduced by a lot and make flights available to more customers. Did you know that up to half of private flights return empty from their final destination? A single trip can cost a customer tens of thousands of euros and involves a lot of work, processes and verification. These are not the only areas that strafos addressed during its one-year incubation within the ESA BIC Czech Republic, which is managed by the CzechInvest agency. Now Marek Wagner, CEO of strafos, talks about their story, the two investments they received and the joys and sorrows of startup life.
1. Mark, in the introduction we have slightly outlined what strafos does and what you are working on. Tell us more. What exactly does your app do?
In the initial phase, our solution offers help mainly to the sales department of a private jet operator. Salespeople handle hundreds to thousands of enquiries every day (depending on the size of the company), create quotes from those and can only convert a small percentage into bookings. Even a single booking can affect a large number of offers already sent, and all of these affected offers should ideally be manually tracked again by salespeople, evaluated for feasibility, recalculated and verified for profitability. It is not possible to process such a large number of offers in real time, and in a short timeframe. In this respect, the capacities of traders or entire teams and current software solutions are insufficient. Our algorithm evaluates and recalculates all this automatically the moment a new enquiry is received, or a booking is confirmed. Thanks to strafos, the salesperson directly selects the most lucrative of the enquiries and offers, thus being able to more efficiently optimise their empty overflights within the schedule of a given aircraft. All of this means increased profit for the company and a lower price for the customer.
2. You have competitors in the market. Where is your competitive advantage? How did you manage to implement all the information others have to manually calculate or ask airports for?
I consider three important factors to be the main advantages. We have chosen to go with a more complex way of calculating the cost of a flight, which is more programming intensive, but it is that much more accurate for strafos users to optimize their aircraft schedule and deliver higher profits. Next is the integration of services providing flight data. Integrations allow us to offer quality technology solutions that are already successfully operating in the market. strafos unifies these integrations into one environment and users using our application significantly increase the efficiency of the work they do. Last but not least, the clear modern design and simple user control of the application is a great advantage.
3. You have received 2 investments and you make no secret of the fact that your way was not always perfect and it worked out the second time around. What motivated you to try again? After all, not everyone finds the strength and maybe even the finances to keep going.
The decisive factor was the support of the investor Radek Ondráček from INVESTRO, who believed in the solution we bring to private aviation from the beginning. When he offered us the opportunity to restart, we simply could not refuse. My motivation was not only to create a product that would bring a significant innovative breakthrough to private aviation, but also to be responsible for this huge investment. Last but not least, my motivation was the positive feedback on the idea of strafos. The road to confidence in our product was a harrowing one, not only for me, but also for the investor and the clients.
4. You were incubated in the European Space Agency’s incubator ESA BIC Czech Republic for a year. How do you evaluate it in retrospect?
The ESA BIC incubator was absolutely crucial for strafos and we are very grateful to have been selected for the incubation. Thanks to the initial incubation, we were able to develop a prototype app and validate the functioning and concept with potential clients. We had the company background, mentoring and overall introduction package to move us forward. ESA BIC also connected us to CzechInvest’s programs and in particular recommended us to one of our current investors, Lighthouse Ventures. Thanks to ESA BIC and securing the investment, we were able to start development in full swing.
5. Now you have a prototype of your app. In how long would you like to be the central figure in the sale of private jet charter flights? Is that even realistic?
Being part of the majority of private jet charter flight sales is a beautiful dream that is real and we can see a path to that dream. We are past a difficult time and there is still a lot of work to be done. Currently strafos is used by several clients in Europe and the Middle East. We are also currently in talks with aircraft operators from the US market, where we had planned to expand to early next year. The US market represents the majority of the global private aviation market. Establishing ourselves in these regions and improving the solutions we provide is our plan for the next two years.