There is a recipe for disruption

August 22nd, 2013 by Rod Rakic

“A startup is a human institution designed to deliver a new product or service under conditions of extreme uncertainty.”

– Eric Riese, [@ericries] author of The Lean Startup

I continue to be very much inspired by how Tyson Weihs [@tysonweihs] and the team at Foreflight [@ForeFlight] completely disrupted the experience in the cockpit by helping so many of us do away with paper charts. You can see Marc Andreessen’s concept of how “…software is eating the world,” at work right there in our flight bags.

If there ever was an industry ripe for disruption, aviation should be at the top of the list.

Have a look at how SurfAir [@isurftheskies] has broken the mold for how commercial air travel works, swept the pieces off the floor and glued together a completely new concept of how people can use airplanes to get around. Note that they didn’t just come to market with a new business plan for how to run an airline or charter company. By making flying an all-you-can-fly membership service, the Eyerly brothers [@wadeeyerly & @DCMEII] came to market with a completely new business model. Netflix was successful because it attacked the friction points in renting DVDs. Maybe SurfAir will end up doing the same thing for short haul air travel.

Stop writing business plans. (Really, quit it.) Jason Fried [@jasonfried] founder at 37 Signals here in Chicago, famously offered, “Unless you are a fortune-teller, long-term business planning is a fantasy,” in his book REWORK. The ugly truth is that business planning is really just business guessing.

Aviation doesn’t need new business plans, we’re well beyond that. We need new business models.

Luckily for us, we’re able to skip the arduous exercise of writing the classic thirty page business plan. Creative writing is better left to artists rather than the MBAs anyways. Instead, let’s chart ideas using the Business Model Canvas.

Business Model Canvas

Business Model Canvas


The Business Model Canvas is one of the foundational tools in a doctrine for creating new products and services which has taken both corporate America and those who seek to escape it by storm – known as Lean Startup.

While many aviation enterprises definitely could be described as lean, that’s usually not by design, nor is it what we’re talking about. Lean Startup is a movement which first took hold in the tech startup community, but has spread across just about every industry. The methodology has become popular in both the creation of new companies and been applied within large corporations. We need more lean startups solving the wicked problems faced across the aviation ecosystem. Safety, utility, costs, access, and experience all need dramatic improvement.

The great thing about Lean Startup is that it’s a great inoculation against building stuff that people don’t want. Aviation as an industry has always been really good at building both products and services which nobody wants.

Grab a whiteboard, sketchpad or sticky notes and get to work. You don’t need an MBA or a budget to be inspired. We now have the methodologies to tackle the tough problems. It’s time for new business models. Together we can reverse the declines and create new ways to grow the aviation economy, ecosystem, and community.


Rod Rakic

Rod Rakic is committed to making aviation work better. He’s the co-founder at OpenAirplane, which is dedicated to making flying safer and more useful. He’s a pioneer in creating interactive experiences for almost 20 years. Rod is a digital strategist, professional pilot, and a user-experience nerd with a mission.

The opinions expressed by the bloggers do not reflect AOPA’s position on any topic.