2019 was another exciting year for JetBlue Technology Ventures (JTV). We welcomed several new team members, a second innovation program partner, and made 11 investments. We partnered with JetBlue Airways on three Innovation Sprints and began our 19th proof of concept to date between startups and our industry partners.
We launched a Summer Associates program as well as an inaugural Blockchain Travel Summit to explore use cases and impacts of the technology across travel (save the date of our 2020 summit — May 5!). We also had a lot of fun expanding our presence across the US and the UK at industry conferences and with our own curated gatherings.
Here’s a look back at our 2019 momentum. We’re thankful for all the people in our community and hope to see many of you out and about in 2020. Keep up to date with us on Twitter and LinkedIn or via the JTV newsletter.
We welcomed five new team members in 2019, growing our investment and operations efforts in New York and Silicon Valley:
- Gabrielle Maguire — Operating Principal
- Jim Lockheed — Investment Associate
- Ryan Chou — Investment Associate
- Morton Lin — Senior Analyst
- Zach Winn — Investment Analyst
We also hosted two Summer Associates to introduce more young professionals to corporate venture capital. Each shared thoughts on our blog about their experience — Adrianna Samangiego, from Columbia Business School, and Sloan Rudberg, from London Business School.
We reviewed almost 2,000 new startups in 2019, met in person with 300+ new entrepreneurs, and grew our portfolio with the exciting additions of:
- Miles — a loyalty and rewards app for all forms of travel and transportation. JTV Investment Principal Alex Kaufman wrote about why we invested.
- Stride Travel — a metasearch platform for adventurous multi-day tours. JTV Managing Director of Operations and Partnerships Amy Burr explained why we’re keen on this industry.
- Bizly — an all-in-one enterprise SaaS platform to help teams create impactful events. Alex Kaufman explained what excites us about Bizly.
- Node — an AI-as-a-service solution to help companies surface insights from proprietary data.
We also made seven follow-on investments with existing portfolio companies — Lumo, Skyhour, FLYR, Unicoaero, Redeam, Shape Security and Joby Aviation. This brings JTV to a total of 25 initial investments and 18 follow-on investments to date in our almost four years.
In April, we announced a second partner in our international innovation program — Vantage Airport Group — to collaborate on deal flow and initiatives to improve the airport experience. Vantage joined Air New Zealand, our program launch partner from 2018, and a soon-to-be-announced third partner.
We helped facilitate six proof-of-concepts for Vantage and Air New Zealand last year, including with ClimaCell and Assaia. That’s in addition to the six new proof-of-concepts launched in 2019 with JetBlue Airways and JetBlue Travel Products, including with our portfolio companies Lumo and Unicoaero.
We were grateful to speak at 35+ travel and technology conferences last year as well as host a series of our own startup pitch events in Boston, London, New York, and Miami in partnership with Voyager HQ. We also organized an inaugural Blockchain Travel Summit in March in New York City with 30+ speakers and almost 200 attendees to deep dive into blockchain technology applications for travel and hospitality. Check out the highlight reel of the day and a three-part blog series detailing our learnings from the event.
In October, Vantage and JTV hosted a workshop with industry stakeholders to debate what’s in store for the next generation of airports. We explored how to integrate more comfort, charm, process, and cutting-edge technology into airports to improve the customer experience.
We also helped three JetBlue Airways teams — Tech Ops, Legal and Sustainability, and System Ops Control — understand and envision the next generation of their respective business units through our signature Innovation Sprints. These are 12-week collaborative programs to help the teams maintain a fresh outlook and understand what the future of their sector looks like by getting to know a select group of startups.
And for some weekend reading, if you missed it last fall, JTV Managing Director of Investments Raj Singh shared insights and tips for founders seeking funding from travel and hospitality investors and Amy Burr shared perspective on how startups can best build out and manage proof-of-concepts.
Lastly, here are some notable 2019 highlights and achievements from across our portfolio:
- F5 Networks acquired Shape Security to bolster online fraud protection services.
- Joby Aviation signed a commercial deal with Uber to launch an air taxi service in select markets as early as 2023.
- Volantio announced an investment from and a commercial partnership with Amadeus.
- Stride Travel launched its Stride Gives Back program and was honored by Travel Massive as a top startup to watch in 2020.
- Slice Labs partnered with Microsoft and AXA XL to improve cyber risk management.
- ClimaCell launched ClimaCell.org — a nonprofit dedicated to ensuring critical weather forecasting information is accessible in developing nations.
- 30SecondsToFly won a travel innovation award at the annual Phocuswright conference for its “Claire” AI chatbot for travel agents.
- Node’s CEO Falon Fatemi was honored on Goldman Sachs’ Top 100 Entrepreneur list as well as Inc.’s Female Founders 100 list.
- Gladly secured $50 million in financing and was featured in the Wall Street Journal about its partnership with JetBlue Airways.
- Betterez partnered with Hannon Coach to support the premium coach service’s planned expansion and welcomed Chris Boult, the former Chief Information Officer at Greyhound, to its advisory board.
- Miles released a sleeker and more streamlined Rewards page that includes a simplified layout, featured and premium rewards, and a search bar to help you find the rewards you want.
- Redeam announced impressive year-over-year growth indicators and was included in Arival’s list of top tours and activities startups by funding.
- Lumo was featured in the New York Times as a new tool to help air travelers predict delays and the startup’s CEO and Co-Founder Bala Chandran was included by Forbes in a list of entrepreneurs whose ideas are changing the global travel industry.
- Skift identified Unicoaero as one of the “most promising” travel startups to watch in 2019 and the startup was profiled in APEX Magazine.
- FLYR raised $10 million in funding to expand research and development and expedite product updates.
- Mozio CEO David Litwak published an opinion piece in Phocuswire arguing that every OTA should be thinking about an urban mobility strategy.
- Bizly raised $1.5 million in seed funding and brought industry veteran Kevin Iwamoto on board as Chief Strategy Officer.
- Outside Magazine honored Skyhour on a list of best travel tech of 2019.