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Launching your business in a new key market during a global pandemic may not be an obvious strategy but it does bring some benefits, according to Christopher Marich. He should know – after raising $5m and launching the artificial intelligence- (AI-) powered spend management platform My Sky in the US recently.
Nine months in the planning, the US launch was paused in March but went ahead in May, after the team detected growing interest in making cost savings in business aviation. “We realised we were a good crisis product, as spend management and cost savings have become a lot more on the radar of operators and stakeholders in private aviation,” Marich told Corporate Jet Investor.
Established in Europe in 2016 and servicing 350 aircraft worldwide, MySky uses proprietary IT tools, AI, optical character recognition and machine learning (ML) to introduce financial consistency and transparency and cost savings in the management of business aviation aircraft.
The platform provides private jet owners, operators and corporate flight departments with the tools to better understand and control how money is spent, said Marich.
“We saw big demand in May, with business aviation indicators approaching more positive levels, so we thought now is the time to launch in the US,” said Marich, who is the company’s co-founder and global strategy director.
‘Reduce their administration costs’
So far, the US business has attracted “a good mix” of clients ranging from charter operators and management companies that are looking for ways to optimise their cost structure to private jet owners who were focused mainly on reducing operational costs. “Since there has been a downturn in flying hours, we have been more active in helping management companies and business-to-business company streamline and reduce their administration costs,” said Marich. He believes the company’s position as an independent, third-party player has helped the business win the trust of industry stakeholders.
The company currently offers three products to help individuals and organisations manage the costs of business aviation. Those are: MySky Lite, designed for Part 135 operators and management companies, MySky Plus, geared to Part 91 and corporate flight departments, and MySky Pro, which offers a personalised consultancy package for clients.
“Most of the industry stakeholders don’t have the resources to check invoices and costs line by line,” he said. “The industry is very unregulated so there is no standard way of doing things. Automating these tasks allows machines to be much more efficient in identifying mistakes such as billing errors addressed to the wrong aircraft or the use of the wrong price list. Our system helps to ensure that nothing slips through the net.”
The three tools also cut the time it takes to produce monthly reports and reduces the cash gap for operators. “In this industry that cash gap is huge. And especially during difficult times, the reduction in cash gaps is something that is highly valued by our clients,” said Marich.
‘Reduction in cash gaps’
The funding round was led by New York City-based GMF Capital, a leading private investment management platform for private equity, real estate and alternative investments. Gary Fegel, founder of GMF Capital, who has joined MySky’s Board of Directors to assist with the company’s strategic planning, said: “The MySky platform brings unique value to the private aviation industry, and will undoubtedly improve the way owners and operators manage their private jets and fleets.
“GMF chose to invest in MySky because we believe in the company’s mission to bring financial transparency and order to the jet industry, and are confident that MySky will be just as successful in the Americas as it has been in Europe and the CIS region.”
Mariach said a key goal of the funding round was to preserve the company’s independence. “We raised the money from private equity and not from any industry stakeholder to remain 100% independent – to keep control of the business and not to dilute our vision.”
A key part of MySky’s North America launch was the appointment of Jean De Looz, as head of Americas. Read more about De Looz in the box below.
MySky appoints Jean De Looz as head of the Americas
Alongside its $5m capital raise and US launch, MySky announced the appointment of Jean De Looz as head of the Americas to lead growth in American markets, with a particular focus on the US. After working for nearly 15 years in the business aviation industry, De Looz has a wide scope of expertise spanning flight operations, aircraft charter sales, OEM aircraft sales, and asset management. De Looz also holds a Commercial Pilot’s Licence and an instructor rating.
Christopher Marich, MySky’s co-founder and global strategy director, said the business would benefit from De Looz’s broad industry experience and wide contacts in the US and beyond. “I can sleep well in Switzerland knowing Jean is delivering his side of the partnership – drawing on his wide knowledge of business aviation and extensive contacts.
De Looz said: “I am excited to be joining this innovative and much-needed company during a time of pivotal growth as well as a period where spend management has become a necessary tool during the economic downturn.
“MySky is a pioneer for change in the private aviation industry and I look forward to working with the team to infiltrate the Americas’ market, and make a long-lasting impact.”
Chris Marich: Launching during a global pandemic can bring benefits.