On Wednesday, Air France/KLM Group launched a seed fund and incubator aimed at helping innovators bring their ideas to life–and hopefully make travel a little easier, better, friendlier, and funner (sorry, copy editors, but it just works).
BigBlank, the group’s new subsidiary, (presumably it’s short for Big Blank Check?) bills itself as a “startup studio” aimed at helping entrepreneurs who are “determined to drastically redesign the travel experience.” Once the incubator finds suitably innovative nascent projects, the team works with the entrepreneurs for 12 to 18 months to bring the product or idea off the page and into the market; participants are granted access to the airline group’s expertise, technologies, and customer insights.
As a first step, BigBlank will provide seed funds of up to $900,000 (€800,000) per project, which should hopefully be enough for the next Away suitcase or Airbnb.
Air France/KLM Group is not the first airline to dabble in the startup world. As Skift notes, many others have gone before. Emirates Group has Intelak, Etihad works with Abu Dhabi on travel innovation, JetBlue Ventures invests in the future of travel, and Lufthansa has its Innovation Hub. That said, it’s not easy to do–Qantas Airways knows this all too well, as it recently announced plans to shutter its two-year-old Avro accelerator project.
Air France/KLM is undoubtedly aware of the challenges associated with running an incubator, though, since the group has dipped its corporate toes in the startup pool before. Back in 2017, it ran a startup pitch competition, as well as supported the Paris-based incubator Welcome City Lab, which was aimed at fostering tourism-related businesses.
BigBlank reportedly aims to launch its first startup by early spring.