California Firm Invests in Beloit Aviation Software Maker Comply365

The cockpit of an airplane is usually the target for most innovations in aviation technology. Over the past decade, at least some of that attention has focused on the pilot’s “flight bag,” a mainstay of the flight deck.

The term refers to the box-like briefcase that holds everything a pilot might need: the aircraft operating manual, aeronautical and navigational charts (usually Jeppesen chart binders, or “Jepps”), a route manual, flight checklists, logbooks, weather reports, pilot’s license, passport, and other accessories like calculator, pens, sunglasses, and headphones.

One of the companies that has helped the aviation industry move from the traditional flight bag—which by one estimate contained an average of 12,000 sheets of paper per pilot and weighed nearly 40 pounds—to a lightweight electronic flight bag is Comply365. The Beloit, WI-based startup said Wednesday it had received a “growth investment” from Luminate Capital Partners, a private equity firm based in San Francisco. Specific financial terms, including the size of the investment, were not disclosed in a press release announcing the deal.

The investment by Luminate, which had not invested in Comply365 previously, follows a $12 million funding round the startup raised in 2014.

Kerry Frank, who co-founded Comply365 in 2007 and continues to lead the startup as CEO, says her team will use some of the proceeds from the latest financing round to fund product development. The company’s software is designed to increase the productivity and efficiency of its customers, which include Florida-based Spirit Airlines (NASDAQ: SAVE) and several other popular North American carriers, Frank says.

Frank declined to reveal the amount Luminate invested in Comply365. She also declined to share revenue figures or comment on the valuation her company received as part of the deal.

Comply365 does not create the documents that make up a flight bag. Instead, the startup develops apps allowing users to access materials like operating manuals, which Frank says are typically written by plane manufacturers such as Boeing (NYSE: BA) and Airbus, and then tweaked by airlines afterward. She says Comply365’s software includes tools that let customers edit information in flight bag documents, and share them with other users.

According to Wednesday’s press release, more than 525,000 people use Comply365’s software. They include pilots, cabin crews, maintenance technicians, and other aviation industry workers.

Comply365 is seeking to expand its international footprint. Kristen Mattingly, the startup’s director of marketing, says it currently has nine clients based outside the U.S.; Comply365 plans to double that number by the end of the year.

The company has developed a desktop version of its software, as well as mobile apps for iOS, Android, and Windows devices.

“I believe about 90 percent of our user base uses iOS platforms,” Frank says.

Comply365 is currently focused on the electronic flight bag industry, which is estimated to be worth about $1.5 billion annually. Frank says that Drive Capital, the Columbus, OH-based venture capital group that led Comply365’s 2014 funding round, encouraged the startup to also develop software for industries other than aviation, such as education. However, she says that Comply365 later decided to “pull back” on that work, and since early 2016 has concentrated on aviation customers.

The startup was introduced to Luminate Capital Partners through an investment bank Comply365 hired to help search for suitors, Frank says. According to the release, three members of Luminate’s team will join Comply365’s board of directors: managing partner Hollie Haynes, operating partner Mark Pierce, and principal Sanjay Palakshappa.

Jeff Buchanan is the editor of Xconomy Wisconsin. Email: jbuchanan@xconomy.com Follow @_jeffbuchanan

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