2018 was an exciting and busy year for JetBlue Technology Ventures (JTV). Our team reviewed over 2,000 startups and announced seven new investments. We spoke at numerous conferences around the world and expanded our presence and partnerships internationally. We’re not only investing in the future of aviation but also many adjacent areas that give us a foothold — and strategic options — in the future of the broader travel industry.
Last year’s funding reflects our ongoing investment themes of enabling seamless customer journeys; providing magnificent customer service; enhancing maintenance and operations; innovations in distribution, revenue, and loyalty; and evolving new modes of regional transportation. We also made seven follow-on investments, deepening the support and relationships with our portfolio companies.
2018 was a big year for urban air mobility with developments in electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOLs) and “flying taxis.” There are now more than 120 startups innovating in this space, and given this impressive growth, we’re excited about our investment in Joby Aviation, an electric air taxi startup. It was also a big year for real-world applications of machine learning and artificial intelligence — technologies demonstrated by our portcos ClimaCell, Lumo, and FLYR.
Below is a look at some of our key investments and headlines from 2018. We’re entering 2019 with strong momentum — more on that below — and are grateful for our growing community. You can participate by signing up for our newsletter and following us on Twitter. Here’s to a great year ahead!
- Investment. We kicked off the year with an investment in micro-weather forecasting technology ClimaCell. The company’s software reduces reliance on traditional weather tools and helps weather-sensitive businesses make critical operational decisions. For more context, check out Investment Principal Ajay Sharma’s blog post here.
- Investment. Alongside Toyota, Intel, Sky Dayton, and others, we invested in Joby Aviation’s $100 million Series B round. The startup’s bold effort to redefine aviation and personal transportation earned a feature in Bloomberg Businessweek.
- Blog. I shared some personal lessons learned so far about corporate venture capital (CVC). In a business world where accelerating change has reduced the lifespans of large corporations, meaningful CVC can help companies remain innovative and adaptive.
- Blog. Investment Principal Alex Kaufmann wrote a perspective piece about the potential of blockchain for travel — a technology we’re very excited about and will be exploring further in 2019.
- Media. In advance of her keynote at the Eye For Travel conference, Investment Principal Christina Heggie outlined eight essential tech insights for Eye For Travel magazine.
- Investment. We participated in Redeam’s Series A round, which Skift called a “refreshingly uncool” startup. While the problem of paper vouchers might not be considered flashy, it’s certainly significant.
- Investment. We participated in a $2.3 million seed round for Lumo. The company’s use of machine learning to proactively predict flight delays has the potential to transform the way airlines and travel managers handle disruptions.
- Media. Fast Company published a fun deep dive on our story thus far in Silicon Valley and our portfolio redefining the future of travel and hospitality.
- Blog. We celebrated two years last Spring and I took some time to reflect on what we’d learned so far as a team. We also released our new brand video to further explain the who, what, how and why behind JetBlue Technology Ventures.
- Media. I was extremely honored and humbled to be named to the Global Corporate Venture Top 100 Powerlist.
- Blog. Operating Principal Bess Chapman published a blog post on how we connect JetBlue with the startup community to drive strategic value and source innovation for our parent company — an essential part of successful corporate venture capital.
- Operations. We welcomed Amy Burr as managing director of strategic partnerships to lead our international expansion.
- Operations. With Amy on board, we launched our international partnership program with Air New Zealand to bring together a consortium of global travel providers embracing and applying innovative and emerging technologies within their companies.
- Media. Thanks to the Wall Street Journal for profiling how our team helps JetBlue take advantage of new cutting-edge technology.
- Investment. We invested in Unicoaero, an advanced baggage management platform that tracks mishandled bags all the way to the customer’s doorstep, adding transparency and accountability to a once-opaque process.
- Media. JetBlue’s CFO Steve Priest spoke with Financial Management Magazine on how JTV investments help JetBlue guard against disruption and remain competitive for the future.
- Blog. We celebrated National Aviation Day by reflecting on the past and future of aviation. There’s so much impactful and game-changing innovation happening in the industry today!
- Media. I chatted with Phocuswire about the technology trends we’re seeing in the travel industry, what’s on the horizon for JTV, and how startups can best get our attention.
- Media. On stage at the Skift Tech Forum, I joined Chris Hemmeter from Thayer Ventures for a lively discussion on the state of venture capital in travel. You can see a clip here.
- Investment. We participated in Slice Labs’ $20 million Series A round. Slice Labs upends and digitizes traditional insurance, simplifying the process of purchasing insurance down to one click.
- Media. Our team traveled to the always-fun Global Aviation Festival, where I spoke on stage with Air New Zealand about our international partnership program. I also joined easyJet’s COO Chris Browne at the Women in Aviation Mixer to celebrate the inspiring female leadership in our industry.
- Media. Managing Director Amy Burr was profiled in Travel Weekly about our investments currently deployed by JetBlue and why we’re looking across the entire travel spectrum (beyond just aviation).
- Investment. We followed on our previous investment in ClimaCell this year with participation in their Series B round. Axios covered the news here, calling it a “big deal” technology.
- Blog. Managing Director Raj Singh shared his perspective on the core differences between strategic corporate venture capital versus financial, an important debate to be had.
- Media. And the next week, Innovation Leader published a story exploring how our team approaches corporate venture capital differently.
- Investment. We participated in fraud-prevention startup Shape Security’s Series E round, which was profiled in TechCrunch. Shape Security has proven to be an impactful business partner of JetBlue and we’re excited to be a part of the company’s next chapter.
- Media. This month marked our first foray into Asia, where Operating Principal Bess Chapman spoke on stage at the FTE Asia Expo in Singapore about JTV’s value as a strategic partner for startups. We also sponsored the event’s startup competition, which was a welcome introduction to the local startup community.
- Media. I had the pleasure of joining JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes on stage for the Cornell Tech @ Bloomberg Series where we spoke with Bloomberg’s Scarlet Fu about the innovations shaping the future of the airline industry.
- Media. Investment Principal Christina Heggie and Managing Director Raj Singh were interviewed by Phocuswire at their Phocuswright Conference on how the travel industry should embrace innovation to create seamless end-to-end customer journeys and experiences.
- Blog. Managing Director Amy Burr reflected on the launch of our international partnership program in a chat with Air New Zealand’s Manager of Digital Ventures Mike Oulsnam.
- Media. Operating Principal Bess Chapman was featured as a rising star by the National Venture Capital Association. Congrats, Bess!
Looking now to 2019
2019 is shaping up to be an equally exciting year. We’re looking forward to more co-innovation with our startup portfolio as we help them expand implementations and pilot programs across a larger customer base. If you have a startup changing the future of travel, we want to hear from you. (Every pitch gets a response!)
We’ve partnered with the travel community Voyager HQ to hold a startup pitch night in Boston on April 17 and one in New York City on September 25. And we’ll be hosting an inaugural Blockchain In Travel Summit on March 20 in New York City at Company — a venture and startup space JTV has joined as an innovation partner. Mark your calendars and please join us at these events as we expand our presence on the East Coast this year!