An Airport App Takes Flight


An Airport App Takes Flight

Two years ago, pilot Dan Stratman of Kansas City, Missouri, began developing an app to help weary travelers navigate airports. After 17,000 downloads, it's on a glide path to profitability.

Dan Stratman's "Airport Life" app is free on the iPhone, with the premium upgrade ranging from $2 per month to $20 per year.

Why design an airport travel app? I’ve been a pilot for 23 years, and I have seen firsthand how difficult travel has become—even for frequent fliers. When I wear my uniform, I’m a magnet for confused and angry travelers looking for help. After one frustrated businessman approached me when his flight was canceled, a light bulb went on. I decided to create an app.

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What does it do? "Airport Life" does everything from tracking your itinerary to finding a place to eat to locating your car. It also has terminal maps and the “Airport Wall,” where travelers can post comments and ask questions.


How did you build it? I went through several software companies. I worked with a developer in India for eight months, but the work wasn’t correct and the software was buggy. I’m on my third company right now, which is based in Kansas City but ships the coding to Vietnam, and it’s much better.

Where did the funding come from? My salary (I still work as a pilot) plus funds from the aviation consulting company I own helped finance it. So far I’ve invested more than $100,000 in the project, but I’m looking for angel investor groups to accelerate the app’s growth.

How did you learn the business end? After the app was developed, I took the Kauffman Foundation’s FastTrac TechVenture course. It was like getting an MBA in two months, and it filled in a lot of holes in my business knowledge. One of the main assignments was to do an investor presentation. Kauffman brought in investors to be judges and give us feedback.

What's your next move? I’m going to start talking to travel companies, such as Travelocity, Orbitz and American Express Travel, to license the app for distribution to their customers. And I want to create custom versions for companies that employ business travelers.

Has being a pilot helped? It appeals to people that the app is made by an airline pilot. They know that I’ve been in airports. And when I go to airports now, I check that everything is correct and that my maps are accurate.