Flio aims to become the first global airport app, aggregating airport information and giving travellers exclusive airport retail offers.
It thinks its killer feature will be instant, one-click access to airport wifi at locations worldwide.
At launch, the app has instant free wi-fi at more than 100 airports globally, with an initial focus on the UK, Europe, and the key hubs in the US and Asia. It plans to double that coverage by year-end.
Skyscanner, the metasearch giant, is Flio's launch co-marketing sponsor.
Stephan Uhrenbacher is a key co-founder behind the app. He's the Internet entrepreneur and investor who helped build lastminute.com, 9flats, and Qype (which was sold to US technology company Yelp in 2012).
Co-founder Andy Watson was one of the early employees at Spotify and helped to grow the business across the UK, U.S and Asia.
Q&A with Stephan Uhrenbacher:
Tell us how you founded the company, why and what made you decide to jump in and create the business.
I have worked in the travel industry for many years: I founded Travel Channel, which was one of Germany’s first travel websites; and later I served as Head of Northern Europe at lastminute.com, where I helped the company establish itself through to its IPO.
When I was running Qype (acquired by Yelp in 2012), I always wanted to do something for airports because, as a frequent business traveller, the airport was the worst part of the journey.
I have a pretty good track record for spotting opportunities where technology can solve a problem or better a consumer experience, and ultimately, every company I have built is born out of the desire to make life easier for people.
FLIO ticks all those boxes. Flio is a product of Air Media Solutions, founded in London in January 2015.
Size of the team, names of founders, management roles and key personnel?
We are 1-10 employees in size. The founders are Stephan Uhrenbacher, Andy Watson and Ken Knoll. Andy Watson was one of the early employees at Spotify and helped to grow the business across the UK, U.S and Asia. Stephan Uhrenbacher is an Internet entrepreneur and investor who helped build some of the most iconic Web 2.0 brands, including lastminute.com, 9flats and Qype (sold to US technology company Yelp in 2012).
Estimation of market size?
The travel retail market has an estimated size of $62bn with a 5.7bn customer base in airports.
There is no global airport app that provides “all things airport” for every airport around the world. In that sense, FLIO is first-to-market.
There are existing apps that cater to certain aspects of FLIO’s consumer offering - LoungeBuddy for airport lounge access and GateGuru for departure times and gate changes. Although GateGuru has not upgraded its product since Tripadvisor acquired it in 2013.
Revenue model and strategy for profitability?
FLIO monetizes its service through a combination of deals with partners, as well as through advertising revenue.
What problem does the business solve?
FLIO makes the notoriously tedious airport experience intuitive and enjoyable. There is currently no global app to help travellers navigate airports, and FLIO solves the problem of needing to download individual airport apps by creating a single home for airport information around the world.
FLIO also instantly connects users to trusted and reliable, free airport wifi networks with one-click access for the first time without the need to manually enter personal details.
The app offers tips and insights to help make the most of travellers’ time at the airport, including up-to-the-minute airport information and special discounts for key retailers and restaurants.
How did the initial idea evolve and were there changes/any pivots along the way in the early stages?
As frequent flyers, we wanted something to take the stress out of our time at the airport and to help locate the information and services that we cared about. FLIO was born out of the desire to make the entire airport experience better, and in developing the app, we considered travellers’ every need from the moment they step foot in the airport.
Why should people or companies use the business?
FLIO is the only app that 95% of all travellers will ever need.
The app helps airport store operators to sell and directly drive revenues, but FLIO also works with airports to sell services, such as lounges, fast track, etc. - offering the airport an additional revenue channel.
What is the strategy for raising awareness and the customer/user acquisition (apart from PR)?
Leading global travel search site, Skyscanner, will serve as FLIO’s launch co-marketing sponsor. FLIO and Skyscanner will cross promote their services through their respective platforms, and Skyscanner will introduce FLIO to their more than 40 million unique monthly visitors globally.
Where do you see the company in three years time and what specific challenges do you anticipate having to overcome?
FLIO will be the #1 global airport app for all travellers. We want to create a one-stop shop for all things airport related. There are always challenges with all start-ups, and as this is a first-of-its-kind to market product, our challenge will be building our user base and educating travellers around the world about FLIO and its benefits.
What is wrong with the travel, tourism and hospitality industry that it requires a startup like yours to help it out?
There has been good innovation within the broader travel sector, but technology has not improved consumers’ experience in airports yet. FLIO aims to improve the experience at airports. We can’t invent lounges for everyone, but we will help you discover the best way to spend your time with the facilities and services available.
What other technology company (in or outside of travel) would you consider yourselves most closely aligned to in terms of culture and style... and why?
We chose Skyscanner as our co-marketing launch sponsor because the service offers global choice to find the best fares. Similarly, FLIO gives travellers the power to discover and choose from the best airport services on offer.
Skyscanner has made finding the best fares an easy and intuitive process, which is what we want FLIO to do for the airport experience.
Which company would be the best fit to buy your startup?
Describe your startup in three words?
Bold. Innovative. Fast.
Flio would appear to be a challenger to apps like TripAdvisor-owned GateGuru, with insider tips, money-saving offers, airport advice, and so forth.
It sounds as if the aim of the app will be like a remote control for wifi at airports worldwide as travelers hopscotch the globe. It's that utility function that could elevate it to the handful of apps travelers actually use -- as opposed to merely download and then forget about.
There are several unanswered questions about how willing airports will be to cooperate on an ongoing basis with a third-party app like this, and whether it can really scale up quickly in downloads and usage through growth marketing.
On that note, the startup says that Skyscanner will "introduce" the app to its more than 40 million unique monthly visitors globally.
We're eager to see how Flio does.