With rival CEO aboard, FlightPartner eyes investors

Up and away: The ceiling has been raised, again, at Stony Brook startup FlightPartner.
By GREGORY ZELLER //

It’s another happy landing for FlightPartner Technologies Inc., which has recruited a direct competitor’s chief executive officer.

The Stony Brook-based Software as a Service company announced this week that Shawn Sullivan, former New York-based CEO of French private-jet booking firm OpenJet, has come aboard as FlightPartner’s new chief operating officer.

Sullivan, a Federal Aviation Administration-rated Airline Transport Pilot, is also the founding partner and former COO of FlightAware, a Texas-based data-services platform providing live updates of airport conditions and real-time tracking of both commercial and private flights.

But FlightPartner’s interest was especially piqued by Sullivan’s background in finance, according to CEO Doug Schmohl. The new operations chief spent more than two years as managing director of NYC private equity firm MidOcean Partners, in addition to stints with Deutsche Bank and Bankers Trust – experiences that will inform him well as he leads FlightPartner’s push for new capital, Schmohl told Innovate LI.

“We are seeking to raise a round of capital and Shawn Sullivan will spearhead that,” the CEO said. “He will be the point man.”

A virtual middleman between aircraft owner/operators and brokers who arrange private flights for high-net-worth clients, Schmohl’s 2013 startup (it officially incorporated in 2015) is looking to raise between $1 million and $3 million. The money will be used to “evolve the product,” Schmohl said Tuesday, noting plans to double his staff – FlightPartner currently has four full-time employees – by adding sales and marketing professionals and new software developers.

Shawn Sullivan: On point.

The effort kicks into gear this week, with FlightPartner sending an “investment summary” letter to “a list of potential investors having knowledge of the aviation industry,” Schmohl added.

The CEO wasn’t ready to say publicly which potential investors the company was targeting, but reiterated that Sullivan is the right man to have behind the stick during this crucial ascent.

“As CEO, my primary responsibility is to bring on team members that refine and execute upon our unique vision,” Schmohl said. “Shawn’s strength in building and scaling early-stage companies will underpin our operations, strategies and policies, and assist in propelling FlightPartner forward as a technological leader in B2B marketplace solutions for air charter.”

The new COO, who earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from Montclair State University and an MBA from New York University’s Leonard M. Stern School of Business, praised the FlightPartner platform, calling it a “highly efficient digital marketplace” with the ability to not only help brokers secure private flights for professional athletes and C-suite executives, but to reduce operator costs and maximize fleet-management protocols.

“I am thrilled to be joining the FlightPartner team,” Sullivan said in a statement.

The arrival of the new COO is already the second major announcement of 2017 for Schmohl’s early-stage tech firm, a resident of Stony Brook University’s Center of Excellence in Wireless and Information Technology.

In March, FlightPartner announced the launch of its “Quote and Booking” widget, a by-subscription digital tool that allows virtually any third-party webpage to host a drop-down menu – adorned with the host company’s brand – that lets visitors research and reserve charter flights through certified brokers.