Ten Weeks With JetBlue Technology Ventures: Travel Fintech, Startup Pitches, & Flying Standby
This is the first of a two-part interview series featuring the two Summer Associates of our JetBlue Technology Ventures team. The associates spent ten weeks supporting our investment team with sourcing and analysis of new investment opportunities and also completed a capstone research project on a topic of their choosing. We spoke with Adrianna Samangiego, who joined us from Columbia Business School and focused her research on new types of financial and payment technologies for the travel industry.
Q. Tell us a bit about your background and how it led you to JTV?
Prior to starting my second year at Columbia Business School this fall, I wanted a summer internship in the venture capital industry following years of experience as an operator and an entrepreneur with Google and “Area 120” (Alphabet’s incubator). I wanted to dig in to the other half of entrepreneurism — getting funded. JetBlue Technology Ventures (JTV) has been the perfect opportunity to explore the growing trend of corporate venture capital and learn more about the complex operations of travel, an industry I’m personally really passionate about.
Q. How does your role fit into JTV’s mission and what does a typical day look like?
As a Summer Associate on the investment team, I supported the review and due diligence process of live deals and also completed a capstone research project on a topic relevant to the future of travel and JTV investment theses. More on that later.
I’m naturally an early riser, so I would get to the office on the earlier side and catch up on the latest news from across the travel tech and venture capital industries. A typical day would include intro meetings with startups we’re evaluating to better understand their technology and growth plan as well as research to understand the relevant market and customer opportunities of the startups we’re speaking to. A fun challenge of the job has been to quickly become knowledgeable and informed about new technologies that integrate with the many verticals and operations within travel.
Q. Your capstone research project was on financial technology and the future of payments within the travel industry. Why are those elements important to the future of travel?
Money makes the world go around! The airline industry, in particular, is a high fixed cost and low margin industry. Any tiny percentage point that we can save on our bottom line, whether it be on transactional fees or infrastructure costs, has a huge impact.
Also, changing consumer demands are really driving disruption within the fintech and payments space. It’s estimated that more than 80% of Americans own a smartphone and we know that people want a seamless and secure experience while paying. Travel providers have to adapt to those consumer demands, whether it’s via contactless payments or not having to provide your credit card information again because you provided it for your last JetBlue flight. It’s critical for us to improve our margins and stay innovative while also upgrading processes and the entire travel experience for our customers.
Q. What do you think are the biggest challenges facing payment systems in travel?
There’s a lot of venture capital money going into fintech innovation, but diversifying an industry that has historically been dominated and controlled by big behemoth players is a long process and takes time. It’s difficult to add new technology on top of old systems and integrate into legacy infrastructure. It’s not like layering a cake. Sometimes you have to take the system out and recode it to make it work. That process costs a lot of money and requires a lot of technical expertise.
Q. What have you enjoyed the most about working in the travel industry?
The culture at JTV has been so fantastic and open. Right from the beginning, I jumped in to source deals, handle intro calls, and conduct due diligence. You feel like you’re a part of the team from day one. It’s exciting to be a part of such unique and meaningful conversations on how to improve the future of travel, hospitality, and transportation — internally within JTV and JetBlue as well as externally with startups and technologies. The industries connect and impact everyone in some way.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the amazing flight perks of working for an airline and the opportunity I’ve had to travel throughout the Carribean this summer. It’s a work hard, play hard environment, and the JTV leadership wants to see you enjoy those perks!
Q. What advice would you give to next year’s Summer Associates?
My advice for anyone potentially interested in the intersection of technology, travel, entrepreneurship, and venture capital is to just apply. There’s not one standard path into venture capital and expertise from different previous experiences is recognized.
The team here is fantastic to work with and you will learn a lot. Don’t hesitate to ask questions and to ask to work on what you’re interested in. You can take on as much responsibility as you want, just be willing to jump in without feeling like you know everything you need to (I didn’t come from a travel background at all!). JTV leadership works with you directly and takes the time to meet with you every week to answer questions and share about their experience. You are not problem-solving alone!
Lastly, as always, have fun and use the travel perks while you can! The ten weeks will fly by — no pun intended!