Apps can solve many problems in today’s world, but the founders of Vault Aviation wanted a more personal touch for customers booking a private jet.
Childhood friends Paul Taskalos and Weston Hull founded the company in 2015 in Dallas with the goal of brokering on demand private flights for professional athletes and business travelers.
But in an age where everyone is trying to become the Uber of something, Vault Aviation wants to be the opposite of that. It has someone answering the phones and responding to emails 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to handle clients worldwide.
“Honestly, we’re super resistant to having any sort of app.”
“Honestly, we’re super resistant to having any sort of app,” Taskalos said. “We’re not going to because the way the private jet charter industry works, you simply can’t do it with an app. There’s so many things that happen behind the scenes, issues with airplanes, weather delays.”
There are competitors out there who use an app and charge a monthly membership fee. Vault Aviation focuses on customer service, building relationships and solving problems for high-profile clients. It charges on a per-flight basis so there’s no hidden charges and customers are free to leave anytime they want.
But the company is quickly growing a customer base that likes their way of doing business.
“We want to become the premier travel broker across the globe,” Taskalos said. “They know you’re going to pick up the phone every time so they stop calling other people.”
HOW THEY GOT THERE
Taskalos and Hull have known each other since they were 13 years old growing up in The Woodlands. Taskalos became an attorney in Houston while Hull worked for a sports agency representing pro athletes. Eventually, Hull ended up in the private jet industry. He fell in love with it, but saw so many ways it could be improved.
“I always had a dream of owning my own biz,” Hull said. “I started forming the idea of starting my own charter brokerage.”
The two friends reconnected on a golf trip and sketched out their business plan on hotel stationery. The next day Taskalos filed the paperwork for the business and Vault Aviation was born.
They started booking flights in October 2015 from Hull’s tiny Dallas apartment. Now, the bootstrapped company has two additional employees and an office in St. Paul Place tower.
Vault Aviation booked 300 flights in 2016, its first full year in operation, and wants to continue growing this year.
HERE’S HOW IT WORKS
First, a client calls or emails Vault Aviation saying they need to fly from point A to point B, sometimes in as little as two hours.
Vault Aviation calls on its network of private jet companies, usually five to 10 options, that could offer flights at that time.
It creates a micro market for each trip where the different charter jets compete against each other. Hull uses his background in private aviation and his connections to pro athletes, while Taskalos uses his lawyer background to advocate on behalf of his clients.
“We end up getting our client on a great plane for a lower price,” Taskalos said.
Then word gets around and they get more customers. Some of the relationships are with people who may not spend a dime with the company but help them find affluent customers.
“Most of it is word of mouth. That’s the way we started marketing,” Taskalos said. “We don’t really do any traditional marketing. We get involved in all of our clients’ foundations and golf tournaments we buy a sponsorship, participate in the event, and meet like-minded people.”
They have maintained a majority ownership in the company with only a minor investor on board.
“We don’t have plans to bring in any big investors,” Taskalos said.
Their goal now is to continue growing internationally. They’re also considering having the pro athletes do endorsements for Vault Aviation in exchange for flights.
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