JetBlue’s Silicon Valley Venture Takes Flight

July 14, 2017

Sure, JetBlue has flights to Silicon Valley (via San Francisco, San Jose and Oakland), but we have also expanded our wings into the startup ecosystem via JetBlue Technology Ventures. We are very appropriately based at a local airport right in the middle of Silicon Valley – San Carlos Airport. Our mission is to invest, incubate and partner with early stage startups at the intersection of technology and travel.

Innovation is part of JetBlue’s DNA: Our greatest hits include Live TV in the sky, free high-speed wifi, at-home call centers, awesome new “Mint” service that showcases JetBlue’s amazing customer service. Today, we want to work with the next generation of game-changing companies to fuel even more innovation at JetBlue, build upon our award-winning customer experience, improve operational efficiency and revolutionize the entire travel industry (well beyond just airlines.) Through JTV we are able to not only invest in startups, but introduce them to JetBlue as a potential customer.

Capturing Crazy Ideas

We’ve immersed ourselves in the startup scene like no airline has done before. Our small, but nimble group is empowered to make decisions and embrace ideas that may seem crazy in today’s paradigm but will become mainstream in the future. We are partnering with emerging companies to completely transform the travel industry.

For customers, we are finding technology solutions that provide a seamless travel experience in contrast to the fragmented, often-frustrating journey travelers often face today. On the enterprise side, we are investing in solutions that empower our crewmembers to provide even more magnificent service. We are also finding new modes of transportation and technologies to improve existing operations.

Some of our startups are already implementing solutions at JetBlue and some are in the early stages of transforming the industry in 10-plus years. We’re working with early stage startups that use artificial intelligence, big data analyticsInternet-of-Things (IoT) and blockchain technology, electric propulsion, omni-channel communication and more to improve the industry for everyone from the vacationer seeking a stress-free trip to the expert technician maintaining JetBlue’s fleet of hundreds of aircraft.

The companies we partner with don’t focus exclusively on aviation. We’re interested in all parts of the travel spectrum. We’re looking at how hotels can optimize occupancy throughout the day, how tourists can easily book regional travel in an unfamiliar city, and how wireless sensors can be deployed in machinery in far-flung locales to detect and report mechanical problems before they start. While we think about today’s business, we’re also looking beyond the horizon. How can we make the entire travel experience enjoyable, effortless and efficient, now and in 10 years?

Figuring Out “The What”

As a “corporate venture capital” firm, we provide the best of both worlds to all our portfolio companies and the travel tech ecosystem as a whole. We combine the financial support of venture capital with the industry expertise of a Fortune 500 company.

We engage with startups in three ways. We recommend some companies to JetBlue for proof-of-concept testing to help them validate their product. Some we take under our wing, incubating them and offering mentorship that helps them grow. And for up to a dozen or so startups each year, we also invest.

Because we’re working so closely with startups, we want to be sure they fit with the JetBlue culture that is grounded in our values of Safety, Caring, Integrity, Passion and Fun. In addition, they should possess passion, grit, and an innovative and can-do spirit, which is the culture we’re fostering at JetBlue Technology Ventures. So as we evaluate startups, we get to know their leadership. We care deeply about the founders and their mission. When we invest in a company, we invest in “the who” more than “the what.” It’s the people behind the pitch deck who are more important than the cool technology or business model. After all, many startups will pivot a few times before settling on the perfect business model or product, and we are there every step of the way.

So far, we’ve evaluated more than 1,500 companies and, after an exhaustive review process, partnered with a select few. We can’t wait to see what other promising startups are around the corner.