How I did it

How a Melbourne co-working space helped inspire a startup set to disrupt the aviation industry with flights of fancy

Dinushi Dias /

 

Melbourne startup Airly has been creating a bit of turbulence lately and it’s all thanks to a co-working space in Richmond where the idea was brought to life, co-founder Alexander Robinson says.

 

Robinson’s idea to disrupt the Australian aviation industry with an exclusive members-only flight experience drove him to leave a senior management role at an international manufacturing firm and locate himself at Inspire9.

 

“I wanted to see the elements of the space that would help me with the idea I had,” he says.

 

Shortly after, Robinson came across Luke Hampshire on LinkedIn and found out he was working on the same idea.

 

The two joined forces with Ivan Vysotsky, a familiar face at Inspire9, and began working toward a collaborative vision for their idea.

 

“The co-founding team is really quite complementary in our strengths,” Robinson tells StartupSmart.

 

Hampshire has been in the aviation industry for 15 years and Vysotsky’s advanced technical skills made him instrumental in developing the app.

 

Combined with Robinson’s business development background and experience in the air force, the team was able to design and co-ordinate a product that is the first of its kind in Australia.

 

This is Robinson’s first crack at launching a startup and he credits Inspire9 for the inspiration it sparked in him.

 

“I really just wanted to take the plunge and see if I could do it,” he says.

 

Airly will nurture a similar culture of risk-taking and innovation as it continues to grow, says Robinson.

 

“We leveraged Inspire9’s brand and culture to better understand our startup,” he says.

 

“We would like to now pay it forward.”

 

What it’s like starting up in a co-working space

 

Robinson says co-working communities like Inspire9 are life-changing places for startups because of the barriers they break down.

 

“You learn that it’s OK to fail and you’ll find all levels of successful and unsuccessful entrepreneurs there,” he says.

 

One of the challenges in Australia, says Robinson, is its talent pool of people like tech developers and marketing professionals is fragmented.

 

“There are so many bright minds working on ideas in isolation,” he says.

 

“Places like Inspire9 develop a critical mass of people to bounce ideas, challenge ideas, share advice and expertise, and build confidence in startups.”

 

In the development of Airly, Robinson says co-working opened many doors in the form of pro bono mentoring, networks and publicity.

 

“Today we are meeting with Victoria’s Minister for Small Business, Innovation and Trade on steps forward and what support there is,” he says.

 

Based on their experience with Airly, Robinson encourages other startups to get involved in co-working communities.

 

He recalls advice from an old mentor to pursue his passion.

 

“He said the worst that can happen is you’ll lose a bit of money but the lessons, people and experiences it leads to will be invaluable,” Robinson says.

 

“And co-working is the best place to start.”

 

Airly’s concept and its sceptics

 

 

Airly offers unlimited private flights between Sydney and Melbourne with monthly memberships priced from $2550.

 

The concept initiated with California-based Surf Air, which reportedly ordered $US312 million worth of aircraft in 2014.

 

Robinson says Airly’s luxury flight experiences include bespoke concierge services and two hours saved in travel time.

 

“It means our members can spend more time being productive rather than in the baggage waiting area,” he says.

 

Airly has been received with some scepticism in Australia.

 

According to the ABC, aviation experts warn the startup is “doomed” because domestic flights are very cheap now.

 

Robinson says their target market comprises a group of people that not only travel extensively but also value a premium experience over affordability.

 

“We want to build a member-based network of likeminded people including CEOs, executives and entrepreneurs,” he says.

 

 

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Dinushi Dias

Dinushi Dias is a freelance journalist and a former StartupSmart reporter and multimedia content producer. She is the co-founder of Melbourne-based production house Dinushi & Power.

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