August 13, 2014
By Benét J. Wilson
John Hill, a junior at Virginia’s George Mason University, is one of five college student finalists in Entrepreneur magazine’s College Entrepreneur of 2014 contest. The economics major’s submission is EasyFBO, an app designed to simplify the service ordering process for pilots while reducing costs and increasing efficiency for fixed-base operators (FBOs).
Hill, a pilot and AOPA member who works as a client service representative and line technician at Leesburg Executive Airport’s ProJet Aviation FBO, said the idea for the app came to him a few years ago as a way to make the ordering process at an FBO more efficient with less mistakes. “I put it aside for a few years, but picked it up again when I heard about this contest,” he said.
EasyFBO will help companies manage their ordering process for services including fueling and parking at airports around the world. The app has three parts: EasyFBO Pilot, a free mobile app for pilots to order fuel and other services from participating FBOs; EasyFBO Desk, a Web app for front desk personnel that enables them to view a live list of orders that have been submitted through EasyFBO Pilot; and EasyFBO Line, a mobile app for line technicians that allows them to view the real time feed of tasks and check them off as they’re completed. The three apps will communicate with each other, fully integrating and mobilizing the fuel ordering process.
Hill already had a different company with his business partner, a 3-D printing operation for engineering students and local businesses. “I saw the competition in the magazine, and it said that the winner would get start-up money and plenty of attention, which is a big help for small businesses,” he said. “I couldn’t use the 3-D business since it already had sales, so I decided to do the app because aviation is my passion.”
After being put through to the next round of the contest, Hill was asked to make a video about his app. “I spoke with my bosses about it and asked for their support. I also did market research with two other FBOs about the app and got a positive response,” he said.
Hill then was told he had made it into the final five. “I was excited. In the beginning, I wasn’t sure what my chances were because they may not be familiar with general aviation so I wasn’t sure they’d understand my idea,” he said. “It’s very specific to pilots and FBOs, but they understood the possibilities.”
The contest is a great way to get the word out about the business benefits of GA, said Hill. “I decided whether or not anything comes of the competition, I will still pursue the app because it’s a viable business opportunity to help FBOs,” he said.
The winner will receive $5,000 in seed money, along with other prizes. Those interested can vote for Hill’s project. The deadline to vote is Sept. 19.
AOPA eNewsletter and Social Media Editor Benét J. Wilson joined AOPA in 2011. She is working on her private pilot certificate.
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