Masters Series Transcripts: Luke Hampshire (Co-founder at FlyAirly) — When Your Startup Isn’t a Startup Anymore

Camille Monce —  May 11, 2018 — Leave a comment

The goal for many startups is growth — rapid growth, so success means they won’t be startups for very long. Even if your startup grows slowly, there comes a time when you’re not a startup anymore.

Luke Hampshire is the co-founder of FlyAirly — think of them as the Uber of private jets. After launching, FlyAirly went global overnight, established a footprint in the UK and now they’re about to break into South East Asia.

Disclaimer: Transcripts may contain a few typos. Similar sounding words can lead to them being deciphered wrongly and hence transcribed likewise.

Interviewing Public: But that costs where the business is no longer as it was a startup, it’s now what I call a fledgling. I have no idea if that’s a technical term, but it’s one I use. So I’m really want to understand the next growth stage and I really want to understand what kind of barriers challenges frustrations I’m going to face.

The entrepreneurs running the businesses think that they can do anything on their own. They get to a point where they kind of hit a brick wall like why do I really need people to help me out? I don’t even know how to ask for the help that I need. So that’s, that’s probably the challenge that I say.

Serpil Senelmis: For WeTeachMe this is the Masters Series where industry professionals share their secrets to success. I’m Serpil Senelmis from Written and Recorded. Are you’ve been one of those new businesses with a handful of clients? You’ll quite happily flooding along, thinking you’re into a good thing. But good is the enemy of best and you may well be missing the opportunity to scale up. At some point, you’ll need to take off your startup training wheels and get on your bikes. But how do you know that you’re ready to push on? Luke Hampshire is the founder of FlyAirly, a company that redefines the private jet experience. It’s basically like the Uber of private aviation, allowing people like you and I to travel like rock stars. And this little startup is taking off.

Luke Hampshire: It’s quite funny, we had a broker reach out to us who’s based in Italy one night and I can’t seem to add euros or I can’t find any Italian airports and, you know, global mindset from day one. private jets are everywhere, but we weren’t quite ready to go global but when we received this email, I got coding that night and responded to the broker saying on press refresh, try again it should be working fine. So kind of overnight, we went global.

Serpil Senelmis: Since 2015, Luke has grown FlyAirly beyond Australia, to the UK and soon, he’ll be setting up shop in Southeast Asia. This is the story of a startup that has gone far beyond its goals. And a warning if you have sensitive ears, Luke tends to use a little bit of colorful language. So let’s disarm doors and posture.

Luke Hampshire: Thank you. Alright, formalities let’s get the real formal stuff out of the way. I am 202 centimeters in height. I used to play basketball. I do have to duck under doors. The weather is just as good up here as it is down there. And my language can get colorful so if you get offended, I am really sorry, but I get a bit passionate sometimes. So the word my fly. I don’t have that really inspiring story as a kid who just grew up in a normal family always had a side hustle taught myself PHP when I was a teenager did websites on the side and since the age of 13, I’ve been in aviation, anything you could think of I’ve got a pilot’s license worked in the airlines, polish private jets, air traffic control Air Force two works and a have a different founder position I guess what we’re starting to see more of it married with a mortgage with kids, which makes found life very interesting, I guess compared to being that 18-year-old kid with no responsibilities. We incorporate in 2015. The concept we’ve been at it for about three, four years. Ultimately, the democratization of private aviation, getting as many people as possible onto private jets because it’s far more efficient, the service is way better. And it is pretty cool. So we started initially at city to city shuttles Melbourne, Sydney, being number two for the busiest routes in the world. Really worked hard at that for about two years. And then we made a pivot last year in June 2017, looking at empty capacity, jet sharing-event centric kind of deals, and it seems to be working because we have revenue and stuff now. So we’ve listed over three and a half million dollars in private jet savings, which I think is really cool and something that we’ve only started tracking. They do come from empty legs. So what that is, is if someone hires a private jet one way they still pay full price. jet flies home empty, we capitalize on that get our members on it for like 10% of the actual cost. So it’s pretty cool. Supply in Australia is quite sparse just because it’s a infant industry but in the UK, I mean London Paris for 1000 pounds for a whole jet isn’t uncommon at all. Launched in June 2017. We have close to 3000 users on board now a footprint in Australia and London slash Europe. And this year, we’ve signed up our first Singapore based operator, but we’re starting to make that press into Southeast Asia, we see that market much like Australia, but with greater net worth something very important that we’re chasing there. I guess I hope it doesn’t go against the theme of the night. But when is your startup no longer a startup? In my mind startup is purely a mindset. In my mind. I don’t think it is a timeframe, I don’t think it’s a revenue figure. I think it’s how you’re applying yourselves as a founder to your company. I guess the easiest way to say it is trying to find exponential ways to grow, create the repeatable processes and maintain that mindset whether you’re worth $1 or a billion dollars. In my mind, if you drop that startup mindset, you open yourself to disruption, you become slower moving. Obviously, a lot more admin going on so. At early, we will be trying to maintain that startup mindset from day one right into the future, no matter how big we are. Definitely hasn’t been easy and no startup journey has. So the first two years like I said, city the city shuttles between Melbourne and Sydney on private jets sounded great. Everyone thought it was great, but couldn’t raise enough funds to really dig our teeth into I guess, Alexandra and I, who I should have mentioned is a co-founder, we belted our heads against the brick wall, trying to make it work. So just on a random night, I started this PHP coding again created a new platform and…

Luke Hampshire: I’ll talk about it as part of a founder mindset as well. But the minute we stopped giving a fuck what everyone else thought by our customers shit started to actually happen. For that first two years, we will probably be so focused on what everyone else thought that didn’t matter, that that was starting to see the direction where we’re heading and we wasted two good years on that going global. It’s quite funny, um, we had a broker reach out to us who’s based in Italy one night, and I can’t seem to add euros or I can’t find any Italian airports. And we sort of always knew that you know, global mindset from day one, private jets are everywhere. But we weren’t quite ready to go global. But when we received this email, I got coding that night and sort of responded to the broker saying on press refresh, try again, it should all be working fine. So kind of overnight, we went global. But, you know, if you’re going global-based off user demand, I saw it as a good thing. And that’s why we grabbed the opportunity. And now we’ve got operators leasing in the UK, we’ve got members in the UK, and this year as well. We’re looking to push even harder. So no matter what your startup is, you can make a very successful company or startup in Australia without having to worry about the global markets, there’s some things he can do really well. But if your product can be taken everywhere, Australia is such a speck of dust in the global scheme of things. You look at the US, private aviation is so accepted and common, Europe as well. So for us global has to be a mindset. So in Australia, we want to build up what I call there is a bit of sweet market because one of the richest countries per capita, but the education is so low, and everyone thinks they’ll be a wanker if they fly private, they’re not looking into the real benefits of it. So we’ve got a lot of work to educate people, whereas in other markets, we can move into quite rapidly and start making revenue from it. The cool thing is, and I don’t want to pitch the company I’m here to talk about experience and try and get you guys involved too. But for business class fares, you can fly private, per person, if not a little bit less. So Melbourne, Sydney is upwards of 1400 each way, about 800 each way we’ll get your 14-seat private jet if you had 14 people. All right. From a founder’s perspective, the four steps are fucking up in my eyes. We’re going to read about the mistakes of previous founders, man go, yeah, I’m not going to make that mistake. Recognize that it’s about to happen to you. And you go, oh, gosh, it can’t happen to me. You make the mistake and now you sit here and preach to others about how not to make that mistake. So I think the latest studies 25% of startups fail within a first year or two and as you progress year on year, your chances of survivability are far greater. For us, we had that. I guess you’d call it a false start for those first couple of years. But like I said before, we started to listen to the right people, we started to listen to what they wanted. And all of a sudden, we had these early adopters that were happy to tell all their friends about to get all their friends involved in it as well and be massive advocates into the media as well. So as far as startup survivability is concerned, if you could find yourself happy adopters, it’s as good as life support and I call life support as insignificant funding, the multitude of things that you you can do to sort of provide your company with life support. But if you have very happy customers, that you’re not paying to talk about you, giddy-up. So the cool thing for us is we started in early days, we had our, I guess, the adopters that were following us throughout the journey sign up, which was great. It’s like, Hey, thanks for hanging in. Geez, you’ve been patient. But then we started getting the celebrities, the athletes, the people, you’d Google and go, oh, shit, they’ve signed up. So we’re starting to get those kind of people signing up, have no marketing, no hassling, no freebies. So I think if you can find yourself the early adopters, don’t be scared to talk to them because I have been as like, are they too busy. And one in particular, he’s a CEO of a very, very big company globally, and I felt very nervous speaking to him, you reach out and he’s on the phone, like within five minutes saying, hey, how can I help I can line you up with this person help you with this. So do not be afraid to reach out to your early customers because not only are they going to help if they like you, if they don’t like you that they’re going to tell you why. And I like that people aren’t afraid to tell you why. That’s the only way you really find out. Personal traits that helped me going from concept to execution. This is a huge one and I had a massive rock on my back for probably the first two years, Alexander did too. We had a lot of self-doubt, because the naysayers are far more vocal than anyone else out there. So we were worried about what the naysayers would say worried about what public perception would be, yet we’ve got people in our ear saying, hey, if you could do the empty leg stuff and shared jets, and how cool would that be? And we just sort of let it go over ahead. But the minute we stopped giving a fuck, and listen to those who deserve to be heard, shit started to happen. Revenue started to come in and start exponentially grow as well. So for someone like me who seems extroverted, I do have a lot of, I guess, yeah, a lot of self-doubt. Getting rid of that rock and credit objective for that, but getting rid of that can really help you as a founder.

Luke Hampshire: Look after you. Thankfully, mental health is something that’s starting to really get recognized and talked to about in the startup sphere, and general business sphere as well. Without you, your business is ultimately doomed. If you don’t look after yourself from a mental perspective and a health perspective, you’re not going to perform at your best. That’s for a founder that has no liabilities. So no kids, no mortgage, no marriage, they can do whatever the fuck they want. And add on to that all the other pressures that a founder experiences, it gets tough. It’s okay. That it’s tough and it’s okay to seek help and talk about it. My background as well as aviation is a firefighter as well. And mental health is very, very important to us. So I think it’s handy that I’ve been able to take the skills from the whole psychology, the whole mental health side of things and apply it into the startup sphere as well. Don’t look at other founders and go oh geez, I seem to be doing it so easy because I guarantee you they are not. Media will always talk about the great stuff. And the inevitable fail to they love covering that which is their job, but you’ll never see all the shooting between behind closed doors every founder has gone through and if a founder hasn’t experienced that yet. Please let me know, give me the secret sauce because maintaining equilibrium. All right, so things are starting to go well, and revenue is sort of a couple grand a month, jumped up to 30 grand a month jumped up to 75 grand a month jumped up to 120 K. Always, I’m normally a pretty level person. And some people call me miserable, but I’ll just call it level like don’t get too wound up or too miserable. But when you sort of add it for so long, I couldn’t help but ride the wave up and go, how good is this… we’re finally getting there. And I guarantee you shit will hit the fan, the carpet will be thrown out from underneath you. So for us, we’re about to have a record-breaking revenue. So double the previous month. Everything was looking absolutely sweet. A couple of cancellations change the plans just through the carpet from under our feet. And we fell hard on our ass. And for me who was riding that wave so high, I inevitably followed that roller coaster down and crashed. And probably yeah, a couple of weeks where I was you don’t talk to me, I rode that too, I wrote it too hard. So there’s any advice I can give you guys on maintaining equilibrium is just try to maintain strategy. You’re going to have wins, and that’s great but shit is going to hit the fan. Things aren’t going to go right, you’re going to go. What’s the point? Like, why don’t I just go get a normal nine to five that pays well try and stay in the middle as hard as it is to get caught up. Please try and stay in the middle. Sometimes just enough is good enough. Now this sort of relates back to riding that roller coaster for that period where we went from zero to practically 120 k in revenue before the carpet got thrown out from underneath us. It was never good enough. As a founder, Alexander probably quietly took a step back and appreciate it cuz he’s very smart. Unlike myself, I never thought where we were at was good enough. You’re always looking at the big competitors that have been around for so much longer have so much more coverage. And no matter how well we were going in my mind it was never good enough. call that a healthy mindset but I Don’t think it is. Because now I look back and go, I wish I could have stepped back and taking it all in and going, you know what? I remember at the airport at Essen and I used to drive past look at a private jet take off and go. One day our members will be on that and thought that was so far-fetched. Like there’s just no way that people will trust us in organizing their trips. All of a sudden, we were doing it and doing lots of it. And I never took the time to step back. Oh shit, actually yeah, we did do it. So no little pat on the back or anything. So sometimes, just enough is okay. Take it in. Appreciate it. It’s good to have ambition. It’s good to keep pressing and demanding more from yourselves as founders in your team. But sometimes it’s okay to say you know, what shit we did okay.

Serpil Senelmis: Wow, what a roller coaster ride Luke has been on and it seems it’s a common story for all founders. I particularly liked his advice that sometimes just enough is good enough. I know I’m often guilty of aiming for perfection. We’ll hear more from Luke and meet his role models right after this.

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Serpil Senelmis: Thanks, Ad Guy. Let’s get back to Luke’s story. Luke Hampshire created a world first with his business FlyAirly. His company makes private aviation accessible to all of us, not just the rich and famous. What’s been important to Luke has been role models. And he’s about to tell us how he feeds off the experiences of other founders.

Luke Hampshire: What’s been important to me as well as role models, and I guess before the startup journey, role models to me was just one person that was a total moonshot, I’d love to be him. For me, it’s Mark Cuban. He’s very much down the line like I am. He’s obviously got a lot of money, so that’s cool, too. He’s got his own private jets or a couple of them. So yeah, always had that moonshot, but in the startup journey, for me, I bought into extra-role models. And sort of I guess reverse-engineered how do I get to Mark Cuban Don’t get me wrong total moonshot but you’ve got to have ambitions right? So the way I tried to play it out was Justin Dry if you’ve ever met him CEO of VInoMofo absolutely top guy, he’s given me a lot of time and Alexander as well a lot of time and advice. I placed him into my future role model. So still not easy to attain because he’s worked his ass off for a long time. But a tad more attainable than Mark Cuban right. So I tried to set someone that was maybe a little bit more realistic, still very challenging, but somewhat realistic. And then someone close proximity. So this is Jessica Rufus, she’s a CEO of Columbus soars top chick, she’s so cool, but she’s in a similar position to where I’m at. And I think it’s really important to feed off other founders that are in a similar position to you, JD will still have memories from the worst times of VinoMofo, and before VinoMofo the cough days, but for Jessica, we were going through similar problems and it’s obviously very raw, you can help each other out and talk about it. So since I sort of set up this sort of close proximity future and moonshot, I guess I was able to leverage better and gauge where I wanted to head as far as a role model was concerned or personal attributes to. So I almost didn’t accept this because I thought I’m not JD I’m not Justin Dry. You know, in my eyes were still so, so early. But again, yeah, okay, cool. We’ve made a product, we have customers, we have revenue, we’re growing. So I think it’s really important to speak up earlier. Because like I said, JD has been through it years ago, versus more recent. So if you ever get the opportunity to speak up at events like this, have someone reached out for help, don’t ever think you’re under-qualified. Like, I’m happy to admit, I thought I was under qualified for this. But I say you know what, I’ve learned things that maybe I could pass on to someone else. And we go through the four steps again, so you can learn from and then go do it again anyway because it’s way more fun. Like I said, with the media, you’re always going to see the best of everything in the best of everyone. Never think that any founder has had a really easy ride through the journey. And as founders yourselves, it’s up to you guys to talk to the next batch of people considering it, not scaring them away from it, but perhaps keeping their feet on the ground and keeping things realistic for them like it is not all glass, private jets everyone thinks you’re driving a Ferrari and fly private all the time. It’s so far from the truth. There were the people on the ground trying to facilitate those people who have Ferrari’s and want to fly by them. That’s it for me, so yeah.

Serpil Senelmis: Thanks, Luke. Now, there’s a man who’s making a global mark. I particularly enjoyed his four steps to effing up what a man now friends the training wheels are off, it’s time to pedal hard on your own. Next week, a beginner’s guide to cryptocurrency. I bet you know someone who’s made a buck or two from this digital monetary exchange. Could be Bitcoin, Litecoin, Namecoin. But how do all these digital currencies work? And how will they shape the business transactions in the future? We’ll have all the answers next time. Until then, I’m Serpil Senelmis from Written and Recorded. And for WeTeachMe, this is the Masters Series.

Luke Hampshire: They’re not happy if I sit down for obvious reasons. Yeah. Does it make you all feel better? Hope so.

About Masters Series by WeTeachMe

Masters Series is a show about inspiring entrepreneurs, creative thinkers, and visionary dreamers, and the stories behind how they built their companies.

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