Fuller Lights Up the BIMS 2024 Audience With Revenue and Flying Exploits 

When Craig Fuller (pictured with Jim Elliott), founder & CEO at FreightWaves and Firecrown, was trying to buy a plane, he found it was definitely not a one-stop-shopping-and-researching experience. So he created one.

“One of the frustrations was that there was no central place to find information,” he told us at BIMS 2024 on Thursday afternoon. “You had to go to google and type in search for about 10 different things—accidents, pricing, parts…”

It was clear to him that what was needed was Zillow Zestimate for airplanes, a site that could “create a really comprehensive experience. Have an entire history archive of all these airplanes,” he said.

Enter Aircraft for Sale by Flying and its offshoot Plane Price, “the first and only publicly available aircraft valuation tool.” He described it as “a walled garden for consumers that would serve all the information they want, taking a lot of data, safety reports, accident reports, etc. All the great information you need if you’re buying an airplane.”

And there it is—“research and data on the aviation industry”—on his How We Make Money chart, next to advertising, subscriptions, marketplace, affiliate and content studio.

You quickly sense a theme to Fuller’s business sense: If you want it and it doesn’t exist, go build it. Flying Finance, another example, is focused on providing loans for aircraft buyers. “Banks look at planes as exotic assets. But they’ll do it as lead generators for people who have money,” Fuller said.

When Fuller was looking for an airport in Tennessee that he could rent a hangar in—where people could basically park their planes near their house—red tape blocked the way. So he found “1500 acres up the road” and is now building The Fields, his biggest project to date. People will be able to take a runway right up to their house.

“We took ads out in our magazine, and over the course of 9 months, generated $28 million in lot sales,” he said. “When you have a high cost product, print works so well. Pilots, if you know them, we are happy living in a barn with a runway—95% are dudes. But it’s hard to get my wife to live at an airport.”

The solution: The Fields will have all kinds of extras from wineries and spas to beautiful natural scenery for horse riding and hang-gliding. “75% of our inbound [responses] came from women,” Fuller said. “This is what I believe will become our signature place.”

Is Fuller always right? No. The key, he said, is to “take very quick tests, fail a lot, fail often and in a way that won’t kill your business. 90% [of your ideas] will fail. I have a team that is willing to do that, and we have very short memories.”

That team now includes 170 fulltime staff. When Fuller bought Flying, he talked to his new audience and visited his print vendors. The message was, “Please don’t shut down print.” Fuller listened but then said, “If we’re going to do print this is going to be the most beautiful, coffee-table-ready magazine ever. And it is. We’re focused on improving the quality of the products we buy. The consumer should know that you care deeply.”

He compared this to Warby Parker opening up a store in Manhattan. “Consumers know there is an essence to that brand. We buy these magazines and want to create the essence of quality. It’s very important to us that we have a personal relationship with our subscribers. Our goal is to double the value of the media businesses we acquire. I like stuff that’s not overly competitive. It’s hard for me to compete against private equity.”

Finally, when it comes to content, Fuller was head on. “We want to inform people what’s happening in their industry, They’re not just hanging out.” He added that this, most definitely, includes bad news. “Maybe it’s a bloodbath bankruptcy, or someone going to prison, super negative news. We’re trying to get to the truth.”

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