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.

  • Brad Johnson

    Excellent post, and thank you for sharing the canvas. There has been a rash of new start-up like companies in aviation, yours, SurfAir, the folks down in the South East running service on Caravans that Delta was charging $1200 RT for. But there are also little pockets of innovation in business modeling taking place at fields right next door to all of us!

    I do have one question, Aviation related start-ups tend to be $$$ heavy, even for the smallest expense… How do people, with a truly possible plan, find the $$$ to get rolling?

    All the Best!
    Brad Johnson

    • Rod Rakic

      Thanks Brad!

      I’m glad you found it useful. Lot’s of folks have asked me how we came up with OpenAirplane, and this was the methodology that we employed to get us this far.

      Aviation has been historically radioactive to funding, But there are examples like SurfAir, or even ICON Aircraft, which are venture funded. Sure it cost a bunch of money to bend metal, or even write code… but there is plenty you can do to capture validated learning, and start building traction first… which can be leveraged to attract funding.

      I’m happy to talk about it directly if I can be of help.

  • Mark Jones Jr.

    The AOPA is doing such a fantastic job of keeping spam out of the comments. Part of the disruption that the AOPA is bringing to GA I guess.


  • Prince George

    Dear Rod Rakic I have seen your Business Model Canvas it is really informative but the canvas image is not properly visible can you please update it.

    I am also working with a company who is helping startups to realize their amazing ideas.

    check it out here –

  • Pingback: chavez smsy bangbro lil wayne mixtapes anime pictures sexy moms glass pipes madeline zima beyonce naked thing thing 4 free rpg games rajasthan university craiglists young and the restless spoilers greg oden samantha fox gundam seed indianapolis dining cre()