I’m bluffing to get Wijet.
During the HEC Ms Entrepreneurs, a man presents a project about private jets or very light jets. The project is called X-jet, and a lot of students want to be part of it.
A board chooses and forms the teams, after each student wrote his preferences on a sheet of paper. Like about thirty others (I will realize this later), the first one on my list is “X-jet”.
I also write that I have a pilot’s license, even if it’s not quite true…
At 16, I passed an aeronautics initiation certificate. I dreamed of flying, and I read the entire introductory book (one of the only books I read in its entirety, along with the Visual Basic programming manual). The certificate was entirely theoretical; I’d never flown before.
LONG BEFORE WIJET, AERONAUTICAL SPORTS, WITH HIGH RISK AND HIGH DOSE OF ADRENALINE, ALWAYS FASCINATED ME (FREE FALL, PARAGLIDING…). I’LL GET A CHANCE TO GET MY PILOT’S LICENSE LATER.
In the afternoon, teams are announced, and I’m picked; by bluffing.
We’re 3 in the X-jet team: O.L. (HEC), F.G. (Telecom) and me. The HEC courtyard is where we kick it off. Mr A. explains the project and tells us about his career: HEC, Harvard, Sciences po, the Navy. He has an entrepreneurial profile, and already a lot of experience. The kind of people you want to work with!
We come back among the others, who question us and congratulate us, a bit disappointed. We clearly got the hottest project.
Between Maxim’s and MacDonald’s
O.L., F.G. and I are getting started into this project, with a deadline in 1 month and 1/2: a defense before a board of investors and entrepreneurs.
The project is not yet well determined: half price private jets just landed on the market; here is what we know.
For me, being in this situation, with everything to build, is very exciting. Once again, I realize that this is what I like.
I approach this market as a complete novice. I try to book a private jet by searching on the internet, and I quickly notice the gaps: 80% of the market is completely intermediated via brokers, the amount of the quotes changes according to the name of the person; it seems like everything is done so that we don’t make requests. The planes used until then, with 6-8 seats, are also much more expensive to buy (5M$) and to operate.
An idea emerges:
CREATE A PRIVATE JET AIRLINE BY OFFERING AFFORDABLE FIXED RATES, PER FLYING HOUR.
For 4-seater aircraft, we expect €1600 per flying hour, or €400 per person. A fixed price is very innovative, because landing taxes differ according to the airports: our margin will sometimes be high, sometimes very low. A web platform will also make it easy to book.
Our working sessions take place in Tikehau offices, rue Royale, above Maxim’s. I’m handling millions of euros (on Excel), without having any idea of what it is.
When we finish late, F.G. and I go to MacDonald’s on Rivoli Street.
Finally, the project is presented at HEC before the Venture Capitalist board (cf. note in previous article) and our grade is 19/20. Mr A. asks us if we want to continue the adventure; O.L. declines: she already has a job at Lehmann (we’re still in 2007).
The project starts with F.G. and me.
I continue studying at HEC Entrepreneurs (2 weeks working at Darty where I learn that we can sell a product without knowing this product), but X-Jet monopolizes me and fascinates me.
At that time, we realize that many projects, similar to ours, are being developed. Like the one of Mr F., now CEO of Globeair. After some email exchanges, we sign with him an NDA¹, and we meet at the Sheraton, at Charles de Gaulle.
In this very exclusive environment, I arrive at the appointment with the same suit I had for the INSA graduation (as in the episode of Bref: “the suit I wore was the same that I always wore, at job interviews, funerals and weddings”).
Very good fit. We’re in December 2007. Our company doesn’t exist yet, but we dare to meet some big names. Mr F. already has investors; he’s much more skilled than we are.
We see each other again in January, this time in Tikehau office (for sure impressive). The discussion ends in the elevator and Mr F. gives us huge info: he’s not going to go with the Eclipse 500, but with the Cessna Citation Mustang. Eclipse is going bankrupt, while Cessna has more than 7000 private jets flying in the European sky.
So, we’ll go with the Cessna; we still have to find the funds.
THIS EPISODE IS PART OF A SERIES OF ARTICLES ENTITLED: “THEY DIDN’T THINK IT WAS IMPOSSIBLE, SO THEY DID IT.” YOU CAN FIND ALL THE ARTICLES BY CLICKING HERE.
¹NDA: Non-disclosure agreement. This is an agreement signed between 2 parties in which each undertakes not to disclose information transmitted by the other.