Three grounded Aer Lingus pilots have raised more than €500,000 for their start-up during Covid-19 lockdown.
The pilots, who have more than 40 years of flying experience between them, used their downtime during lockdown to launch a crowdfunding campaign for their start-up Frequency.
Frequency is an internet-based communication system, which aims to ensure critical communication lines between the aircraft, line maintenance and operations control are kept open to improve decision making and communication transfer during airline turnarounds.
The three pilots – Justin Perry, Darach O'Comhrai and Kris Vansteenkiste – took to Irish equity crowdfunding platform Spark Crowdfunding, launching a 30-day campaign to raise funds, in exchange for equity in their company.
The campaign raised €278,000 on the crowdfunding platform over the 30-day period.
The start-up then received match funding to the tune of €250,000 from Enterprise Ireland.
"Everything came together during lockdown. We weren’t flying so had extra time to do fundraising. It has been a benefit to us. We are also getting airtime with airlines. Previously they were so busy, but now have the time to talk to us," Frequency Chief Executive and Aer Lingus first officer Justin Perry said.
Spark Crowdfunding Founder and Chief Executive Chris Burge said the raise by Frequency shows that despite the pandemic, there is still an appetite to invest in high potential start-ups.
"People see that Frequency is an exciting new business, providing airlines with the opportunity for greater efficiency, which will be vital for lower costs and competitiveness post-Covid," Mr Burge said.
"It's exciting to see how much the aviation start-up has struck a chord with our investment community, with 75 different investors opting in to support the business financially," he added.
Mr Perry, who is an Aer Lingus first officer, said the start-up was inspired by the pilots' daily frustration using what he said is an "overly complex system."
"We were having a terrible day with delays and trying to talk to the right people. We were giving out about communications and the systems. We’d call one person who would then call aircraft engineer who then talks to maintenance. All these calls cost small amounts of time, but it adds up. Every minute wasted costs the airline $78. If we can speed up process of talking to boarding agent, it can quickly save hundreds of dollars. The turnaround is a critical time for an airline for efficiency."
Spark Crowdfunding has seen a record 75% surge in business during the pandemic, as cash-strapped companies turn to the equity crowdfunding platform for financial support.
The company connects start-ups looking to raise funds with investors interested in buying shares in private Irish companies. Investors can invest anything from €100 upwards. To date, the platform has raised in excess of €2.4 million for 14 Irish start-ups.