A 2015 Miami University graduate is the latest recipient of student-controlled venture fund to help his airline ticket discount app that could save travelers nationwide millions of dollars.
Miami alum Alex Malebranche, founder and CEO of the PlaneAhead app, said the idea of a continuously updated airline ticket cost app was something he created after saving himself and his family thousands of dollars by keeping abreast of fluctuations in ticket prices.
Malebranche, an accountancy graduate of Miami’s Farmer School of Business who spent five years as a U.S. Army intelligence analyst in information and intelligence analytics, said he quickly realized his quick notification of plane ticket savings to his family had much broader and potentially profitable ramifications.
“I was going to San Diego for my sister’s wedding, and I typically just check for different fares just because I’m kind of frugal,” he recently wrote in a Miami-released statement.
“I changed my flight at one point, and because I knew all the rest of my family were going, I sent a group text and said, ‘Hey, everyone, change your flight.’”
“Collectively, we saved about $2,000, $2,500. And then I used the $600 credit that I got to take my family to Hilton Head,” Malebranche said. “I thought, ‘Man, there’s got to be some sort of alert system, because that was easy.’ It turned out there wasn’t, so that that’s when I started it (app).”
Miami officials described PlaneAhead is an artificial intelligence (AI)-driven platform that monitors the price of a passenger’s airline itinerary, changes the ticket as the price decreases, recovers airline credits for use on future trips, and sends the corresponding airline credits to customers for use on future flights. Customers pay an annual membership fee for the service.
The Houston-based, app company is now so popular, interested customers are being directed to a waiting list, he said.
His company caught the attention of RedHawk Ventures of Miami, which is one of a handful of business student-run collegiate venture funds in America.
The fund, which has drawn wide attention for investing in the MadRabbit company — first pitched by two Miami business grads on TV’s popular “Shark Tank” show — decided to invest $25,000 in PlaneAhead.
Malebranche said the funds he’s raising now, including RedHawk Venture’s $25,000 investment, will allow PlaneAhead’s user base to grow.
“What we’re trying to do is automate our engineering so that we can do thousands and hundreds of thousands of transactions,” he said. “Once we bolster our engineering, we’ll be able to open it up to everybody.”
RedHawk Ventures’ managing director, Abigail Bartlett, was more impressed the more she learned about PlaneAhead.
“Alex & his team have cutting-edge software that is on track to change the way we travel. Even though we’ve worked with him for a short time, Alex is intellectually curious and we are confident in his abilities to lead PlaneAhead to a successful future,” said Bartlett.
RedHawk Ventures portfolio manager Logan Ziegler said of Malebranche: “RedHawk Ventures is extremely excited to add PlaneAhead to our portfolio. Alex is truly revolutionizing the travel industry. His drive and entrepreneurial spirit are contagious.”
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