Tell us about yourself?
I am an entrepreneur and a Board member with experience and background in artificial intelligence and machine learning technology in Supply Chain. I co-founded SkySelect, and I help build and execute the vision, mission, and strategy for this organization.
I am driven to digitize the aviation MRO supply chain and to transform organizations into customer and value-driven structures through innovation.
SkySelect was founded in 2017 and is headquartered in San Francisco. Our team brings together expertise from aviation, supply chain, and technology.
Today, we are working with 30+ airlines and MROs across the Americas and EMEA region, and we are backed by reputable investors from Silicon Valley, including Bain Capital Ventures, Initialised Capital, and Lux Capital.
We are very excited about the value we have been generating for our customers like JetBlue, Azul Airlines, LATAM, Avianca, Finnair, TAP Portugal, Iberia, Vueling, Icelandair, MTU, Magnetic MRO, and many more.
It’s been a very exciting journey to build a solution for an industry, which is traditionally seen as non-sexy for most of Sillicon Valley, that is Supply Chain, Logistics, and Maintenance Organisations.
What do you think is the single biggest misconception people have when it comes to startups?
Some people believe a good business idea by itself is all you need. The truth is that a great idea on its own is worthless, you need to be very close to the customer’s voice and need to build a product that creates value.
It’s all about how you execute your idea in the real world and implement your long-term plan. Success will not come overnight, and you need to be persistent and not fall when everything is not going according to your plan.
Perseverance is key when building a business, and you want to be true to the goals of the business and customers needs, not vanity metrics or fluff that will get you funding from investors in Silicon Valley, but there is no real business to back it up. Stay true to the mission of building a product that customers need, and be ready to innovate and pivot as per the requirements of the industry.
What lessons has being an entrepreneur taught you?
I realized how important it is to be empathetic. I care about making people’s work experiences better; hence it was compelling to go and start building a technology solution in the Aviation MRO supply chain.
The supply chain is not like Crypto in terms of valuations, however, I found a real need in the industry, and no one was solving it, so we went for creating a solution that generates real value. Even before we had a product, we landed a major airline as our first customer, and we scaled very quickly.
We could sense that we were helping people and the Procurement departments, and that was a good feeling to have.
You will always achieve more and go further if you trust, listen and empower your colleagues. Every entrepreneur and manager needs people who believe in you. Always uplift others, and be a positive force in the world, and positive things will follow.
If you could go back in time to when you first started your business, what piece of advice would you give yourself?
It takes confidence and courage to see opportunities and seize them. As a colored woman, I had my fears and doubts, but I saw more possibilities out there.
When you do not have a lot of examples for role models for colored immigrant women in Business Leadership positions, Board Executives, and Entrepreneurs, it can be quite intimidating.
However, I allowed myself to trust the opportunity and believed in my business idea. Everyone in the Tech industry in Silicon Valley and the Aviation Industry have been very supportive, and I have only received support and been seen as an equal by every person in the industry.
Today, the industry has more challenges than ever, and there are so many opportunities where you can add value and do good for yourself and the industry.
So in a nutshell, trust your gut, listen to the voice of the customers, and have the courage to take the leap of faith.
A lot of entrepreneurs find it difficult to balance their work and personal lives. How have you found that?
I am not a good role model when it comes to work and life balance, and I believe it’s hard to strike a balance when you are running a fast-growing company. I often have meetings with colleagues and customers early in the morning or late at night.
As a global company, we use the “follow the sun” model; however, as we are growing fast, I see that regional hubs are requiring less input from me.
Internal Balance is also about listening to what gives you passion and taking action in your life by working and building things that you are passionate about, and for me, it’s solving challenges with technology.
When you are driven by passion, you get a sense of fulfilment and content that makes you feel more alive. Despite the fact that my life can be busy, it’s full of purpose, inspiration, and fun.
Give us a bit of an insight into the influences behind the company?
It’s no news that the global supply chain is under immense pressure and facing a multitude of problems. This, of course, extends into aviation, which has been hit particularly hard over the last few years, given the social, economic, and general state of the world.
One of the effects has been what some are dubbing the great resignation. A number of knowledgeable and skilled aviation professionals, including buyers, were either let go or left because of Covid and have transferred into other industries.
This has made it difficult for airlines to recruit new talent as they begin to scale back up, especially when it comes to finding experienced talent.
All of this means the MRO industry is up against severe capacity constraints, as it’s become increasingly difficult to source, purchase, and implement the right parts and materials with the right aircraft in a timely manner.
Airlines are under severe resource constraints while the travel industry is back in terms of demand. So there was a gap, which was very visible to us. We saw the opportunity.
What do you think is your magic sauce? What sets you apart from the competitors?
In 2021 we spoke to over 30+ airlines and 150 suppliers and identified four challenges within the MRO supply chain: Poor Supply Chain Visibility, Capacity Constraints, Time Spent on Manual Tasks, and Excessive Costs.
We are a very customer and product-focused company, we are really good at keeping our tap on the pulse and innovating fast.
To address the pain points above, SkySelect developed a new eProcurement-as-a-Service (ePaaS) for aircraft material. ePaaS combines experts and technology and enables airlines to digitize and automate material purchasing for leaner and more asset-light operations.
The advantage of this approach is that it overcomes the adoption problem, and an airline or MRO can basically transform their supply chain overnight, instead of in the 6-12 months that it typically takes to implement new technology or platform from our competitors.
Secondly, with ePaaS they get instant access to AI, Big Data, and Cloud to enhance the visibility of their supply chain.
How have you found sales so far? Do you have any lessons you could pass on to other founders in the same market as you just starting out?
We found our customers, while we were surveying the industry on the challenges.
Our customers helped define the problems as well as the solutions, so the product was built with a solid collaboration with the industry.
In that process, those companies became our close partners. It was very organic. You have to have a very clear value proposition and a growth plan.
To set up a business, you need to be clear about how you can help others with your product/service and why it’s better.
Don’t be afraid to do something different in a constantly changing world. If your business model delivers more value to your industry, you are on the right track, and your sales pipeline will grow.
What do you consider are the main strengths of operating your business in California over other states in the US?
California attracts very skilled people, offers great networking opportunities, and California is a state that promotes long-term business growth.
You want to be in an area that has smart people from across the globe who are building cutting-edge technology and solving key problems of our world.
Yes, California is expensive, but it also gives the required network, and idea flow required to innovate. No innovation or creation can be done in silos, and Silicon Valley still attracts the best talent from the entire globe.
What (if any) are the weaknesses of operating your business within California?
As we are working closely also with organizations in Asia and Europe, it can be challenging to work across multiple time zones.
We are currently suffering through a cost of living crisis. With California already being one of the most expensive states to live in, how has this impacted your business?
No impact on our business.
It is no secret that California is the birthplace of innovation. But that also makes it incredibly competitive. How have you found the competitive environment of California?
As a technology company, we are serving the aviation industry worldwide, and we are not affected very much by the competitive environment of California.
Our unique and innovative business model makes us unique in this sector and doesn’t have geographic boundaries.
Have you considered moving your company to another state? If so, which state and why?
No, we haven’t considered moving to another state. California works for our organisation.
Where do you see your business in the next 5 years?
SkySelect intends to “shake up” the status quo of the $100 billion aircraft material industry. In the next 5 years, we want to make the aircraft material market more accessible, faster, and safer for all airlines, MROs, lessors, and suppliers.
We are anticipating rapid deployment of eProcurement-as-a-Service across the globe that will show organizations immediate ROIs, better access to data, and the knowledge that machine learning and AI can bring.
And finally, if people want to get involved and learn more about your business, how should they do that?
For airlines, MRO, and suppliers who are looking to digitize and automate material purchasing, they can learn more about us by visiting our website: www.skyselect.com