Customer Story: Rotor One is flying high over Melbourne
With its eyes fixed above, Rotor One is preparing itself for the future of aviation – and only the sky's the limit.
Some people have used lockdowns to learn how to bake sourdough, propagate plants or dance on TikTok. But for Edward Taylor, founder and Commercial Pilot at Rotor One, he fulfilled his life-long dream of becoming a helicopter pilot.
Edward is a serial entrepreneur, having started his first software venture 15 years ago and continues to maintain links to the software industry through his international consulting business. However, the coronavirus pandemic was an opportunity for Edward to take stock and re-evaluate his priorities.
"If I could choose anything to dedicate my life to, it used to be starting software companies, and that's all well and great. But if I wanted to be a little bit more adventurous, what would I really LOVE to be doing?" – Edward Taylor, founder and Commercial Pilot, Rotor One
Helicopter experiences for everyone
Naturally, Edward took a leap of faith to establish Melbourne's newest aviation business, Rotor One - Melbourne Helicopter Rides. Rotor One provides tailored helicopter charter experiences, including scenic flights, brewery and winery tours to the Yarra Valley, and adventure-based heli-activities like heli-biking and heli-surfing.
Spotting a gap in the market, Edward is on a mission to bring the exhilaration of helicopter travel to the people of Melbourne. He firmly believes that travel is so much more than getting from A to B. From day one, Rotor One has been customer obsessed and tech-enabled. Passionate about crafting unforgettable experiences for each and every customer, Edward readily uses technology to create compelling experiences that are perfect for social media, such as an option to live-stream your helicopter ride around Melbourne CBD.
"I think everyone perceives helicopter and private aircraft charter to be for the elite. It should be accessible to everyone." – Edward Taylor, founder and Commercial Pilot, Rotor One
Customer cues – finding your fit
It seems surprising that anyone would want to establish a heli-experience business in the middle of a pandemic. Yet this is the kind of challenge that Rotor One enjoys taking head-on.
For guests looking to explore Melbourne by helicopter or go on a new and exciting adventure in Victoria, one of the major challenges for Rotor One has been finding the balance between new and exciting experiences for its customers and navigating a heavily regulated industry.
"It's like people would think and assume they can just land a helicopter in their backyard. Unfortunately it isn’t that easy; it is very highly regulated. So there's a fine line between being able to offer a really cool experience, but also maintain safety and comply with aviation law." – Edward Taylor, founder and Commercial Pilot, Rotor One
Another major challenge is that helicopters are not cheap. Financing large assets as a young start-up is a big gamble that not many institutions are not willing to support. Rotor One has had to work hard to collect capital and source the right finance.
For businesses looking to grow, Edward has two pieces of advice. First, you need to be unique. Really unique.
"You have to stand out and have a product that's highly differentiated and ideally significantly better than the others. Understand your niche and understand what your customers really want." – Edward Taylor, founder and Commercial Pilot, Rotor One
The second piece of advice is to be humble enough to "test your thesis". Edward encourages founders to be ready to amend, test and iterate that initial thesis before they expect to find their product-market fit.
"I made this mistake early on… We were very focused on the idea that our product or service is going to be the thing that changes the behaviour of the market and allows them to operate in the more efficient way that we believe they should be working. That proved to be wildly unrealistic. It took us almost three years to really be honest enough with ourselves to be like, actually, people aren’t that readily open to change and we may be building for a romanticized view of the world that doesn’t exist." – Edward Taylor, founder and Commercial Pilot, Rotor One
Streamlining systems – Airwallex in action
Airwallex has enabled Edward to operate multiple businesses in multiple currencies. The headache of receiving payments from international clients, making purchases in different currencies and then attempting to balance everything back in Australian dollars was solved by using Airwallex. Dedicated Global Accounts for each currency have also had their benefits for Edward who regularly has to handle large transactions with international vendors and suppliers in the aviation industry.
Edward also uses dedicated Airwallex corporate cards to track different business expenses from helicopter maintenance to Facebook advertising and everything in between.
Prior to using Airwallex, Edward used currency exchange platforms and had several accounts with some of the big banks, with one technical error rendering his account inactive for six weeks. It is the ease and simplicity of Airwallex that helped Edward manage every aspect of his accounts online was extremely important to him.
Edward recalls the moment when he was making a large transfer to purchase the first helicopter in the Rotor One fleet.
"It is two o'clock in the morning and I have 3 web browsers open and I'm quadruple checking all the amounts, account names, bank addresses, bank zip codes, sorting codes, account numbers etc. I’m having to initiate multiple, significant foreign exchange transactions across 4 different entities one after the other. Thankfully it all worked, but one wrong digit or character and the funds would’ve been sent to the wrong account and the transaction would’ve fallen through. I think the biggest benefit of Airwallex is that we can now consolidate all the transactions into a single process…It makes it so much simpler and safer." – Edward Taylor, founder and Commercial Pilot, Rotor One
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