Aurelius Noell of the ABC team on the transition from an airline executive to a start-up investor
In recent years, venture capital investments in travel technology have increased dramatically. One company that has recently joined this trend is Team ABC, an international venture capital fund that invests in sustainability and digital transformation in the transport and tourism sectors.
Leading the ABC team are industry experts including Aurelius Noell, former CCO of LEVEL and Viva Air; Clyde Hutchinson, founder of Viva Air Labs; and Brian Marrinan, co-founder of Propeller and member of the board of directors of the Market and Economics group of the Institute for Aerospace Technology and the United Nations Sustainable Blue Economy Finance Initiative.
Following the announcement that the ABC team has joined the FTE Innovation & Startup Hub, FTE met Aurelius Noell to discuss his journey from airline executive to start-up investor, what the ABC team looks for in a start-up, and how the fund is looking for new solutions to tackle sustainability. .
Noell is no stranger to the startup world, having previously focused on finding start-up companies that could help solve the complexities inherent in the aviation industry. He explains: “I have already invested in startups while working at Viva Air. Clyde and I jointly created Viva Air Labs, which focuses on startups solving aviation problems in Colombia and Latin America. Prior to that, I was also leading efforts to find startups capable of solving Viva Air issues in Mexico. It was really the introduction to travel and aviation startups and I learned more about what they can do for different players in this industry.
He continued, “When COVID-19 hit, we knew it was more important than ever to support travel tech startups that will pull the industry out of the economic downturn over the next few years.”
Indeed, Team ABC has already started investing capital in startups, recognizing that support is urgently needed. The company made its first investment in April 2021 in Yieldin, a provider of next-generation self-learning income management (RM) software. Noell shares that two more investments have been made and two startups are in due diligence and will be added to the portfolio in the near future.
Access to a rich travel and transportation ecosystem
By accessing their rich travel and transportation ecosystem as well as broad industry partnerships, Team ABC partners aim to reduce start-up risks by helping entrepreneurs find initial customers and ecosystems for their products. “We have a lot of contacts in the world of aviation and transport. I spent 10 years in Central and South America, five years in Mexico and five years in Colombia, so I have a good network there. My colleagues have a great network in Ireland and they are both mentors to startups across the EU. So, with Team ABC, you buy this network, as well as our knowledge of the travel and transportation industries. Having worked in several companies in the travel industry, I recognize that it is very useful for startups to learn how the procurement process works in a large company.
For the ABC team, however, investing in startups goes far beyond providing a positive ROI. It’s about the opportunity to make a positive impact in the world, explains Noell.
Using data to address sustainability
A big topic for the ABC team is sustainability. The company points out that transportation accounts for around 64% of global oil consumption, 27% of all energy use and 23% of global energy-related CO2 emissions. The partners are therefore looking for startups that can help fight the climate crisis. through digitization. “Sustainability is a trend that a lot of companies are getting into right now, but if you dig deeper it actually has a lot of different sides to it. We decided to approach sustainability from a data perspective and more specifically how data is currently used by businesses and policy makers to find the most desirable outcome for stakeholders and for society.
He explains, “For example, many companies have put in place ways to tell you that you have consumed or omitted certain amounts of CO2, but if you look at how that information is put together, there are different ways of calculating it and that determines. the amount. that was shown to you. So one investment we’re closing right now is in a company that is trying to set the standards for using the data available to really calculate what your footprint is and what resources you consume on a trip from A to B. We like that kind. cases where companies take existing and new data and then help solve a problem in a very specific way.
But beyond having a good idea, Noell also shares that there is a key criterion the team uses to evaluate a startup. “I have about two decades of international experience and I was lucky enough to be able to recruit teams from these airlines. What you expect from these teams is flexibility, openness and the willingness to discuss solutions, ”he explains. “So I look at that when I’m evaluating an idea or a founding team – do people have this ability to be flexible? They also need to be able to live with and build on rejection. It’s a revealing moment for us when we see if the founders have the capacity to grow their business in a serious environment. Diversity is another factor – most of the issues we address today are global issues, so companies need to be able to adapt to each region. And also, let’s take a look at the capital structure so that we can see if you really have an idea and a plan on how to take the business forward.
“Last but not least, we like if people come as a team. A one-man show is often difficult, so often you need a co-pilot to help you with your business. If you can align the stars in these areas, you already have a good idea of if the business can take off. “
He also added that having a prototype that demonstrates how the technology works is another great way to show the potential of the solution.