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Private Air Service Rise Sells to California Competitor Surf Air

The company operated flights from Dallas-Fort Worth for two years before turning over to Surf.
By Danielle Abril |
Rise advisory board member Sam Gilliland, left, and founder and CEO Nick Kennedy

After two years providing private air travel from Dallas-Fort Worth, Rise has sold to California-based Surf Air, a former competitor. Financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

Dallas-based Rise, launched by Dallas’ Nick Kennedy in 2014 out of the Dallas Entrepreneur Center, used a monthly subscription flight sharing model that was based on Surf’s service, founded one year prior. Rise’s service allows customers to book flights as late as five minutes before departure and depart via a private terminal at Love Field.

As part of the deal, Rise will transition to Surf Air with a new fleet of Surf’s Pilatus PC-12 executive aircrafts coming to Texas to fly former Rise routes between Dallas, Austin, Houston, and San Antonio. Surf will remain headquartered in Santa Monica. Rise CEO Kennedy will serve as president of the Texas and South East region for Surf and will report to Surf CEO and chairman Sudhin Shahani. Rise’s 35 employees, including the four executive team members, will move over to Surf as well. Integration of the teams, planes, and technology is expected to be completed in September.

“It came pretty fast in the past couple of months,” Kennedy said about the acquisition. “We were both out on the marketplace talking to growth equity shops for capital. It’s a formidable amount of revenue and cashflow out of these businesses. So you go to a growth equity fund … and it becomes a value for us.”

The acquisition expands Surf’s reach to Texas, bringing tis total number of weekly flights to 445 across 17 destinations. With the acquisition, in the next 18 months Surf also plans to expand to the following markets: Bentonville, Ark.; Las Vegas; Midland, Texas; New Orleans; Scottsdale, Ark; and Taos, N.M. Certain membership levels will offer weekend service to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico; Aspen, Colo.; and Sun Valley, Ariz. The service will also launch flights between California and Texas Monday through Friday.

Kennedy initially funded Rise through a $1 million investment from family, friends, and savings. Since then he raised less than $10 million via angel investors and a family office outside of Texas. His goal was to create a less stressful way for business customers to travel between cities.

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