From the Champs-Elysées to Uber

Once again, Mr. C. gets us out of trouble. He gives us an 8% loan over two years. Added to our equity, this allows us to finance the aircraft.

Without that 2nd plane, we’d have been stuck in no time.

At the end of 2009, our company is now launched, growing and achieving success. Far from the dead calm.

Wijet is moving

Very quickly, let’s say as of 2010, our company is experiencing double-digit growth: 30, 40% annual growth. Wijet flies high.

Several commercial bases are open in the provinces and in Europe: Bordeaux, Lyon, Cannes, Brussels. Each time, there are press conferences, with television, speeches of thanks, both very moving and impressive. Small steps for the company, but the press impact is gigantic.

But competitors are never far away. In Lyon, a competitor welcomes us saying: what are you doing here? There’s no business here, leave! A few years later, the newspapers criticized him with the Air Cocaine case².

It’s also time to move to our new offices: no more meetings at McDonald’s, or in Tikehau offices. Wijet settles on the Champs-Elysées (No less!). With new stomping grounds nearby: the Café Mode for business meetings (closed in March 2018), and the bar Les champs et les vignes, for parties.

We became regulars to the latter (formerly Eleven), where the pilots with a stopover came to join us, and there even was a cocktail with our name: the Wijet, with gin and grenadine. Very good, but very sweet. In fact, I think we were the only ones to drink it.

The day we didn’t create Uber

These years remain a full bloom period where I often travelled with my partner, Mr. A.

A brilliant, very creative and innovative entrepreneur, Mr. A. always had new ideas and new projects for the company.

Like that day in 2010 in London. We get off the Eurostar and jump into a cab to go to our meeting. We talk about geolocation and say: we could create a mobile app to geolocate taxis!

Uber has already existed for 1 year but will only open its doors in Paris in 2011. We haven’t heard about it yet.

Finally, even if we didn’t create Uber, we still met the founder of Drive.gt, one year later; and I invest €10K in his company.

We’re gonna be millionaires!

That’s what I thought at first. Just like any startup: big growth, then we sell the company.

In fact, despite the media success of Wijet, the profitability was difficult to reach (especially at the beginning with 2 planes); competing companies were closing down around us.

In October 2010, we expect to hit the jackpot during a meeting with shareholders in Dubai and Doha (Qatar). Sumptuous hotels, cigars that make me sick… We’re talking millions, stock buybacks. I remember calling my banker and starting to look at the price of the Audi A5 (my dream car at the time). Also feeling that it’s too easy, after 2 years of existence of the company.

Finally, the deal fails; and this will not be the last.

On the way to success, we met crooks who promised us millions before disappearing several times. Like that man at the Paris Air Show who sent me an e-mail to buy a plane. A guy working in oil and real estate. He also said he was ready to fund a hotel for my girlfriend who wanted to go into the hotel business. A few days later, he sends me a screenshot of the wire transfer. A phony wire transfer.

And this client (was it the same as the one at the Paris Air Show?), booking flights for €12K, claims that he made a mistake when paying: he would have transferred €80K. He asks to be refunded the difference. On the bank statement, no name, but the mention “check”. After verification, our bank informs us that a false check was cashed (on our account) in the south of France for an identical amount a few days earlier.

We refuse the refund; the client disappears.

Paris-Tulle for Hollande

In 2012, François Hollande’s trip to Tulle, his hometown, for the announcement of the results of the presidential election, allows us to strike hard in the media.

We know at the last moment that he chose to travel in Falcon, a very expensive plane. Like all candidates, he was sent a proposal from Wijet.

We then decide to advertise, with the slogan of Hollande’s campaign: ” Le changement c’est maintenant”³, a Wijet plane, and some text “Paris Tulle for €30,000” crossed out (it was the cost of the Falcon), “€2200 with Wijet”.

The ad is a huge success; we buy a €15K insert in the Figaro; our website displays 100,000 visits a week. All on a whim, and our lawyer’s brilliant idea of using Hollande’s slogan.

Cojetage: MAM’s trip to Tunisia

2012 also indicates the launch of Cojetage⁴.

Initially, the idea was to respond to an internal problem: what to do with empty flights? An empty flight is the flight that takes us to a client’s departure airport. We’re thinking of reselling them on a platform; even at broken prices, there would be a margin.

At the same time, an Internet user launches a prank website that makes a huge buzz: he copies and pastes Bla bla car’s website and offers co-jetage (fusion of the French words covoiturage (ridesharing) and jet). We can see Michèle Alliot Marie praising the co-jetage trip she took with a very corrupt guy. The minister is then getting out from a scandalous polemic.

The same day, I write to this Internet user; we organize a contest, 2 people win; the story is relayed by Canal+⁵.

This is the beginning of Cojetage, which allowed us to reduce our percentage of empty flights (which goes up to 45% on average in Europe for private jet companies).

We thought this service was going to break all records; in the end, it was more about image than business.

But Wijet’s success is here.


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.


 

Notes

¹Title of an article by E. Ducros (meaning “things are great for Wijet”) published in L’Opinion in 2016: https://www.lopinion.fr/edition/economie/ca-plane-wijet-112739

² The Air Cocaine case was very well publicized, it even has its Wikipedia page: https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Affaire_Air_Coca%C3%AFne

³ The ad was relayed in many media (BFM, Les Echos, Le Parisien, etc) https://businessclubdefrance.com/2012/05/14/le-bon-coup-de-wijet-a/

⁴ You can still find the original page of the cojetage website here: https://www.leprogres.fr/actualite/2011/02/12/le-droit-aussi-de-partir-pas-cher

⁵ The newscast report of Canal+ on the cojetage contest is available on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BWxg_SKWYFQ

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