JetBlue Technology Ventures (JTV) is likely to receive around 2,500 startup pitches this year, everyone of which will be looked at and get a response.
Bonny Simi, president, acknowledged a big uptick in interest from the startup community. JTV launched early in 2016 and in the first two years got about 1000 queries. This year is tracking towards 2,500, she said.
Simi talked with tnooz at the Aviation Festival London earlier this month about how this volume of queries is reduced down into ten or so businesses which will get backing from the fund. The JTV funnel this year will probably have around a thousand businesses which warrant closer attention, with Simi keen to point out that "everyone will get a response, it's part of JetBlue's culture..."
The JTV team then carries out "desktop research" of the 1000 or so business which are in scope, before deciding on a long shortlist of around 250 businesses, At this stage the JTV team will meet with the founders, take a close look at the pitch deck and get the shortlist down to 50 or so.
At his point, deeper due diligence kicks in and there will be site visits, call to customers etc. "And ultimately we'll probably make an investment in ten or so," she said. "But even if we don't invest there are some that we will still introduce to JetBlue because there might a commercial relationship to work out."
Simi has divided her team into two - an investment team which looks at the numbers, ensuring not only the standalone financial potential of an investment but also how that investment might work with other parts of the JTV startup ecosystem. There is also an "operations" component to many of the investments, with Simi setting up a team of experienced airline people to help ensure products work in a live situation.
Startups enter JTV's orbit via a number of channels, including referrals from other VCs who are not looking to invest in travel, aviation or hospitality. JTV is active with the global startup community so finds businesses through pitch competitions and events. There is also a call to action on the JetBlue Technology Ventures web site which allows startups to submit their proposal directly from the home page.
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