5 startups chosen for El Al-JetBlue tech program

Cockpit Innovation, the venture arm of EL AL Israel Airlines, and JetBlue Technology Ventures have selected five startups that will take part in the first cycle of their international accelerator program for technologies in the air travel industry.

The five startups selected to join the Navigator program were chosen out of 25 applications from contenders around the world.

Israel’s Cambiu has created a market place for currency exchange, while Voyjer, also from Israel, enables users to match up with local experts to set up a customized travel plans. The US startup 30SecondsToFly allows management to oversee travel data and expenses and manage travel policies for the business team and SeatAssignMate, also from the US, wants to change the way e-ticket/email have worked, creating a universal check-in email. SWITCH.CM, from the UK, provides a tool for airlines to automate the process of hotel reservations and ground transportation in the event of disrupted flights.

Under the Navigator program, the startups will work to further develop their technology and business plans for three months in Israel and one month in Silicon Valley. They will present their ventures to key figures in the global aviation industry. On completion of the four-month program, qualifying startup graduates could get further support for additional eight months.

“Technological progress is what will push the air travel industry forward, in terms of growth and profitability,” said Henry Chen Weinstein, the CEO of Cockpit Innovation, in an interview. “The consumer expects innovative offerings in every experience, especially travel. Anyone in the aviation ecosystem that isn’t focusing on this is at risk.”

Cockpit Innovation was set up in 2015 by El Al to scout for new travel technologies that can be tested within the company and expose El Al, Israel’s national carrier, to new technologies that it can join with as strategic partners, investing resources and knowledge in technology development.

International carriers and venture funds globally are turning to travel technologies as mobile devices are becoming the preferred way make travel plans. The global travel technology market is forecast to grow annually by around 8 percent in 2015 to 2019, according to a report by market research company Technavio.

In November, China’s travel service provider Ctrip bought the Scottish flight search engine company for Skyscanner for $1.7 billion, in what US data company CB Insights defined as the largest VC-backed travel tech acquisition globally in the last seven years. In October, International Airlines Group, one of the world’s largest airline groups, created Hangar 51 — a global startup accelerator program to scout for new ideas, also in Israel.

Located in Silicon Valley, JetBlue Technology Ventures, the venture arm of the US low cost airline JetBlue Airways Corp, invests in, incubates and partners with early stage startups at the intersection of technology, travel and hospitality.

The Navigator program will provide the startups with access to the aviation and travel companies, offering them the possibility to test the products within the industry. Cockpit Innovation and JetBlue Technology will invest around $50,000 in each startup, and will consider follow-on investments at a later stage.

“By partnering with Cockpit and connecting the two travel tech innovation hubs of Tel Aviv and Silicon Valley, we’ve been exposed to some of the most innovatively thinking startups from across the globe, said Bonny Simi, president, JetBlue Technology Ventures. “By combining a wealth of aviation and technology expertise with actual platforms and connections to incubate ideas within the airline industry, we are perfectly positioned to directly help startups shape the future of the travel.”

In addition to the Navigator program, Cockpit also invests independently in more mature startups and has invested to date in five Israeli companies, Chen Weinstein said. There are five more investments in the pipeline, he said, including in those startups that are part of the accelerator program.