Sergey Petrossov is living an interesting life. The 30 year-old is the founder of a $1.5 billion private aviation business JetSmarter, which has been backed by several high-end celebs like Jay-Z. Running a successful business at such young age is remarkable, but the idea behind it is praiseworthy, too.
The inception of JetSmarter was the result of Petrossov’s personal flying experience on a private jet for the first time in 2009. While he was surprised by the luxury offered to the passengers, the archaic booking process appalled him.
JetSmarter was a way Petrossov devised in order to disrupt the private aviation sector. Today, the company is proud to have about 14,000 paid members, paying up to $15,000 a year for perks exclusively provided by JetSmarter.
According to Sergey Petrossov, he had the entrepreneurial spirit since his teens. He even attempted to start an import-export business for automobile tire rims during his high school years. Later, during his time at the University of Florida, he was enticed by computer science and joined a live chatting startup.
Prior to starting JetSmarter, Petrossov had founded an educational startup. This venture dealt in cloud-based software for schools and universities in Russia and Eastern Europe. “These were the countries that couldn’t afford legacy systems,” he says.
About starting JetSmarter, he says, “You have this multibillion-dollar industry that was completely analogue. There was no digital form in accessing it. It was highly inefficient. The planes weren’t being utilized enough. You’d have only two to three people on an average airplane. The cost was high.”
“It required literally calling to book and signing papers. That’s when I decided to organize these otherwise empty planes in a digital fashion with high utilization and a lower cost of entry. We bootstrapped a small tech team in 2012, built an app, met with industry people, raised a little bit of money, and launched (JetSmarter) to the public in 2013.” he adds.
Today the private aviation venture is worth $1.5 billion, and is backed by investors that include Jay-Z, and even the Saudi Royals. The company conforms to the capital-intensive nature of the business, and secured a major funding of $105 million during the round of financing last year.
However, running an off-beat concept wasn’t easy at all. “It (JetSmarter) was misunderstood, at times. The hardest thing on the demand side is to change consumer behavior. We have to do that for the traditional private flyer who’s not used to sharing an airplane. But when you present all the pros, you save a significant amount of money,” says Petrossov.
The man is ambitious about his business, and wants to “own premium business travel in the United States.” For him, the JetSmarter app is not a premium product. “The app is providing value to the consumers,” he says. While he declined commenting upon when JetSmarter would turn a profit, he puts the company’s revenue in “hundreds of millions,” and hopes that it gets doubled within the next two years.