Start-up BookmyHelo Picks Marseille to Revolutionize Helicopter Use

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Start-up BookmyHelo Picks Marseille to Revolutionize Helicopter Use
31 August 2016 / Créez votre entreprise , Implantez, Générale, Aéronautique
The reservations center brings together air taxi owners from around the world

Anyone who has spent hours stuck in a traffic jam has probably dreamed of taking a chopper to avoid missing an important appointment or flight. BookmyHelo aims to make helicopter use easier thanks to a global reservations center. With support from Provence Promotion, the start-up just moved into the Belle de Mai business incubator in Marseille. Founder Vincent Kieffer offers immediate boarding with a business model that could revolutionize air transportation uses.

This means helicopters would no longer be restricted to the elite. At age 53, after racking up 20 years in the helicopter business, Vincent Kieffer decided to launch BookmyHelo, which enables users to book not the entire helicopter, but merely a seat, thus saving them positioning costs. Now, after flying from Nice to Saint Tropez, the chopper will no longer return empty, thus leveraging capacity that, until now, went unused. The pricing will be around 100 Euros.

Creating an Airborne Taxi Community

"The reservations center brings together air taxi owners from around the world. They will benefit from the marketplace effect, which allows them to reach a bigger audience," Vincent Kieffer explains. The CEO of BookmyHelo is going after a potential calculated at 1% of the four billion people who travel by plane each year. He plans to appeal to businesspeople in major world capitals, travel industry professionals (tour operators, agencies), cruise passengers and regular consumers who just want to experience a helicopter ride. "We are finishing up on integrating our system with travel agent networks," notes the start-up founder, who was torn between Rio and Marseille for his company headquarters. In the end, the dynamic environment in Marseille and its increasingly international positioning persuaded Vincent Kieffer to pick the hum of cicadas over the exuberance of Cariocas. It is a homecoming for this former Kedge student, who decamped to Brazil to manage a subsidiary of Airbus Helicopters. "There are big companies in Marseille that host customers from all over the world," says the executive, who is also a newly minted Club M Ambassador tasked with promoting the region's business advantages. 

A Local Springboard for International Growth

The Provence Promotion experts Kieffer met at the #Shake16 e-commerce trade show opened his eyes to the local ecosystem. "I quickly sensed the economic value of setting up shop in the region I had left 16 years ago. We started the paperwork with the ARII to get European funding. With assistance from the Southeast SATT, we were able to work with the Luminy fundamental IT lab to develop software that can process data from around the world," notes Vincent Kieffer.

Housed in the Marseille Innovation business incubator at Belle de Mai, BookmyHelo is a perfect fit for the Aix-Marseille FrenchTech initiative, whose designation was just renewed by the government in July. The company will participate in the grand opening of FrenchTech Week on September 15 in Aix-en-Provence and will attend the various scheduled events ("Méditerranée & Tourisme").

Although BookmyHelo is only starting out with three people, the five-year goal is beyond ambitious: 80 employees and annual sales of €22 million. Discussions are underway with an international hotel chain, an airline, a travel agency group and a concierge service. In addition, BookmyHelo plans to create an international profile by attending specialized trade fairs like CES in Las Vegas, WebSummit, Helitech and Heli-Expo, as well as tourism shows, including IFTM and ILTM. "We want to become the international leader in helicopter transportation," the president says. Investors in this French simplified joint-stock company include Thierry Laulom, head of Do Group Investment, which is also active in Brazil. In fact, in 2013 he founded BookmyLimo, which – you guessed it – applies a similar business model to limousine transportation!