Kenny Dichter: Wheels Up
A true entrepreneur, Dichter has always called himself a “man of the people.” Born with natural, personable talents that can help one succeed in business, Dichter has had no problem using his skills to convert ambitions into a very solid reality.
Although he has his hands dipped into many companies, Dichter is known for his bold ventures in aviation. He began his first mile-high enterprise Marquis Jet in 2001, where he initiated the first-ever fractional jet card. In 2010, he sold his billion-dollar company to Berkshire Hathaway’s NetJets. Now, Dichter has returned to aviation with Wheels Up and has big plans to grow his private luxury company to surpass the success of Marquis Jet.
When Dichter isn’t expanding Wheels Up’s luxury-aviation fleet, he is advocating for several philanthropic organizations. He chairs the Council of Advocates at New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital and lends a hand to other organizations such as the Jack Martin Fund and his own personal Action America.
HudsonMOD spoke with Dichter about Wheels up, Action America and what the future has in store for him.
Q: What’s the concept behind Wheels Up?
A: We’re a membership-based private aviation company that democratizes private aviation by offering very reasonable initiation fees and monthly dues. Our primary airplane, the King Air 350i, is the flying SUV; it’s the SUV of they sky. It’s the most economical, durable airplane in the world.
Q: How is Wheels Up different from your previous company Marquis Jet?
A: Marquis Jet and NetJets have significantly higher buy-in costs than Wheels Up. Think of when the flat-screen television was invented. It might have been $5,000 and now they’re a few hundred dollars at Best Buy. We’re dramatically lowering the cost of entry into private aviation with Wheels Up.
Q: How do you envision Wheels Up in five years?
A: We will be at 10,000 members, with a couple of hundred airplanes and a very powerful mobile application.
Q: You co-founded the nonprofit organization Action America with Tim Armstrong, the CEO of AOL. Why did you decide to get involved in this organization after September 11?
A: Tim Armstrong had lunch with (former NYC Mayor) Mike Bloomberg, and Mayor Bloomberg said he wanted to see people get more involved around 9/11, more involved around New York City, giving back and volunteerism. Tim told me about his lunch and I said we should put something together. In response, Tim and I co-founded Action America. It’s a platform we look forward to supporting for many years down the road. It’s really about people taking action—action is in the name—and it’s something that Tim and I are both about.
Q: You are on the board of other organizations as well. How do those roles differ from the one at Action America?
A: Whenever I get involved in a charity, no matter what my role is, that role is really the same. It’s moral support, to financially help as much as I can, and to help fundraise.
Q: Define luxury.
A: One thing we really sell at Wheels Up—you know, we don’t sell airplanes, we don’t sell concierge services—we sell time. So, what is someone’s time worth? I think the ultimate luxury is control of your time and control of your schedule.
Q: What single piece of advice would you give to people starting out as entrepreneurs?
A: Everybody says, “Don’t give up.” I’ll say it’s the three T’s for any young entrepreneur: things take time.
Photos Courtesy of Wheels Up.