• Omer Winrauke

Cleared For Takeoff

Updated: Jul 30, 2020

Idea to product — how we founded a company while pursuing master’s degrees.

About a year ago, my co-founders and I began our journey as Master’s students at Cornell Tech, Cornell University’s tech focused graduate campus in NYC.

Arriving at Cornell Tech from all around the world, we had a diversity of backgrounds but a common goal. We envisioned ourselves developing technology solutions for today’s global problems, using the cutting edge tools we would spend the year learning about.

This opportunity was presented to us in the form of Cornell Tech’s Startup Studio program, which in a nutshell, enables students to get a taste of what it takes to build a company from the ground up. Cornell Tech requires every student (Engineering, MBA, and LLM) to partake in the Studio curriculum. During the final semester, interdisciplinary student teams ideate, develop and pitch their company multiple times, going through critique sessions from seasoned industry professionals and entrepreneurs. Some notable practitioners of this program are David Tisch, Bradley Horowitz, Chad Dickerson, Aniq Raman, to name a few.

Cyrus, Kulvinder, and I met in our Distributed Systems class, implementing core internet protocols. We met Saniya in our Applied Machine Learning class, who was one of the only MBAs brave enough to enroll in an engineering course. We had established relationships with one another by spending countless hours collaborating on different projects and assignments. It became apparent that we were relentless learners, often willing to go the extra step, even if it meant pulling off all-nighter(s) to work on the other four assignments we had — that’s true grit!

Over the next six months, we spent days and nights juggling between classes and building a product. We worked in fast-paced cycles of research, ideation, and validation, which led us (after a couple of 180 degree pivots) to an interesting area ripe for innovation: flight disruption management.

Most people have experienced, at least once in their lives, the pain that comes with a flight being delayed or cancelled. That pain is of course relative, depending on the traveler. Maybe you just arrived at the airport to catch a flight to Miami with your friends only to realize the information display has a big red “delayed 3 hours”. You feel kind of annoyed, but not really, because it’s just another opportunity to hit the bar (low pain). On the contrary, you might be a businesswoman looking to close a deal for yet-another hotel on South Beach, but that delay would mess things up and impact your business in ways that are not obvious at first glance (high pain). At scale, the dollar value of the latter scenario becomes significant — that’s only one of the many consequences of flight disruption.

The FAA estimates that flight delays cost US airlines $22 billion annually, with most delays a result of air system issues or airline operational delays. That is painful, and as described earlier, that loss trickles down to individuals and businesses who are flying every day. Like many problems it requires intervention, surgically removing and/or replacing the broken parts. It is a difficult procedure with many uncertainties. It requires deep knowledge of the whole pipeline, from the anatomy to its mechanics. We believe only the hardest problems are worth solving and we are doing just that. This is why we chose to create Pilota.

Now, in the process of building out our solution, we are excited to continue learning from each other as we set out to change the way flight disruptions are managed today.

Thanks for reading, as we continue to build we are always looking for interesting conversations. Shoot us an email!

Check us out: http://www.flypilota.com

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