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The Future of Flight

The Future of Flight
October 11, 2021

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Later today, I’ll board a flight from my hometown’s Charles M. Schulz airport, checking out exactly one and a half episodes of Netflix’s runaway hit Squid Game, and landing promptly at 5:00 PM in East LA’s Burbank–aka Bob Hope–airport. This flight costs $50 and shaves about 7 hours off of the drive time it would take me to reach the same destination (TBD for the long-promised bullet train). A number like $50 makes you wonder about the economics of an industry rattled by the pandemic, labor shortages, wily passengers, and increasing fuel costs.

But fluctuations in pricing have existed long before the pandemic. There’s an entire industry of blogs-turned-businesses devoted to hacking the cheapest flights and apps that have come along to hack on your behalf (I like Scott’s Cheap Flights and Hopper). Meanwhile, airlines are adapting to changing demographics of travelers by replacing business class with more premium economy seats to fuel the growing demand for slightly better-than-coach seating.

       
                                                                            Photo: Joby Aviation

United States of Airlines

The Biden Administration has packed heavy incentives for the airline industry to clean up its act, by adding tax incentives for 50% reductions in carbon emissions into its Build Back Better agenda. The initiative, citing the 11% emissions caused by U.S. departing non-military flights, calls for increasing efficiency at airports (hooray!), investments in R&D for carbon-reducing technologies and fuels, and good-paying union jobs for manufacturing. These promises are in addition to the $482MM available to airlines to help them maintain employment and salaries for their workers.

 

Where are the Flying Cars?

Morty and Doc haven’t shown up to tell us how to fly a car (or travel through time, for that matter), but Boom is at least bringing us closer to traveling at the sound of speed. The company's supersonic passenger planes were ordered by United Airlines for $200MM per plane despite having never completed a flight. Challenges include noise or, more specifically, the sonic boom part of the company’s brand, as well as sustainability. They plan to fuel up using technology not quite on the market: “power-to-liquid” fuel is energy from wind or solar made into liquid form. The goal is to have the mega-rich start boarding in 2029.

Rideshare in AIr
Then there are the eVTOLs. Defined by their capacity to take off and land vertically, they’re like the lovechild of a Boeing and a drone. These futuristic creatures are being developed for air taxis, medical assistance, personal getaway vehicles, delivery, and more. The military definitely has a hand in developing the technology; the air force made a $25MM investment in eVTOLs in 2020. Joby has a four-passenger prototype that is the furthest along in commercialization. It has flown hundreds of miles in Northern California, miles beyond its competitors. 
Uber is planning to launch Uber Air with a fleet of eVTOLs, estimating the cost per mile to be $6.  Not bad for a contraption not yet commercially available.

Since last week, PrivCo has added:
185 Companies | 236,181 Funding Activities | 56 M&A Deals

Funding & Deal Highlights:
 

Chronosphere raises $200MM from General Atlantic

Data Observability • Round C • Issaquah, WA
 

Modern Treausery raises $85MM from Altimeter Capital

Fintech • Round C • San Francisco, CA
 

The Mom Project raises $80MM from Leeds Illuminate

Recruitment • Round C • Cincinnati, OH
 

Gretel AI raises $50MM from Anthos Capital 

PaaS • Round B • Poway, CA
 

BrightHire raises $20.5MM from 01 Advisors

Job Interview Platform • Round B • New York, NY
 

Elemy raises $219MM from SoftBank Vision Fund

Autism Health Care • Round B • Miami, FL
 

NeuroBlade raises $83MM from Corner Ventures

Technology Hardware • Round B • Israel
 

Favo raises $26.5MM from Tiger Global Management 

E-Commerce • Round A • Sao Paulo, Brazil
 

ReleaseHub raises $20MM from CRV

Workflow Management • Round A • San Francisco, CA
 

AppLovin acquires MoPub for $1.1BN

Mobile Technologies • Acquisition • San Francisco, CA

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