Blackjet, the Uber for private jets backed by Jay-Z, Ashton Kutcher, Will Smith, and Shervin Pishevar, has laid off most of its employees after additional funding did not come through, reports Boston.com. Last month, we reported that Blackjet was "basically over" and "fucked" and it's hard to see how the company could recover from these revelations from a former employee.
A former BlackJet employee, who requested anonymity, said that "you can't fly somebody for $3500 coast-to-coast and guarantee them a seat when it costs you $20,000 to fly the plane." Often, planes flew mostly empty. "And if you had eight people on the flight, nobody was happy and it was crowded."
"We were losing $200,000 a week," the ex-Blackjetter told me. Most of BlackJet's employees were laid off in September, this person said, after "the investors weren't willing to put in more money."
Blackjet was not a new startup, but rather a pre-existing West Palm Beach company repurposed by Uber investor Shervin Pishevar, who stepped down as chairman a few months ago, and pitched to celebrity backers and Silicon Valley insiders as a sleek iteration on life as one continuous VIP pass—for those that could afford the membership fees. Uber cofounder Garrett Camp, who came in to Blackjet as an enthusiastic cofounder, already scrubbed any mention of his association with the company from LinkedIn.
CEO Dean Rotchin told Boston.com: "We spent almost nothing on membership acquisition [attracting members], and yet still reached decent flight-level economics." The splashy red carpet launch party in San Francisco's Union Square, where Blackjet and a bevy of booth babes gave away free memberships and giveaways, and customer complaints of one month approval process and inability to book seats for two months would seem to contradict that.
The startup has an all-star list of investors, including Camp, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, First Round Capital, Shervin Pishevar, SV Angel, Ashton Kutcher, Guy Oseary, Michael Birch, Naval Ravikant, Rick Marini, Noah Goodhart, Thomas Ryan, Josh Spear, Jay Levy, Science Inc.'s Peter Pham and Mike Jones, Dan Rosensweig, Stephen Russell, Tim Ferriss, Matt Mullenweg, Ryan Sarver, Steve Jang, Shakil Khan, and David Ulevitch. Others include Precedent Investments, Overbrook Entertainment, and Roc Nation.
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