The key innovation areas for KLM are:

  • Customer experience: customers are at the centre of KLM’s thinking, so they continuously look for new ways to improve the ways customers fly.
  • Digitalisation:  KLM is aware that the future is digital, so they want to serve their customers with a personal touch while also including smart, logical digital assistance.
  • Operational excellence: KLM wants to provide an excellent customer experience with a high level of operational efficiency.

Why startups?

KLM want to pull innovation in. Technology is moving quickly, so they strive to innovate to stay up to date. They don’t want to take on these innovation challenges alone: KLM need startups to contribute to enhancing their processes and products.

What kind of startups?

KLM scout for startups in all business areas, including engineering and maintenance, cargo and passenger operation; however, technology is the focus.

KLM have a strict selection process and prefer to work with late-stage startups. The startups they collaborate with typically have a minimum viable product (MVP) and a product-market fit already in place.

The main traits KLM look for are the added value of a functionality, traction (especially for platform applications), maturity, a team they can believe in and ease of implementation (API is preferred).

Collaboration models

KLM often act as a customer: they aim to buy a product or functionality “off the shelf” as an alternative to developing it themselves.

They look at the functionality of the product and how they can integrate it into their own environment, creating a need for co-development or customisation in many cases.

KLM doesn’t typically invest, but they do take part in the Mainport Innovation Fund, which means investments can be made when a startup supports KLM (or one of the other fund partners) in their core business.

Collaboration process

  1. The startup approaches KLM via email/call, and they we request a slide deck. Estimated time: one week
  2. The two parties enter a call or meeting. Estimated time: one week
  3. After the relevant KLM staff are assembled, a joint meeting takes place. Estimates time: one month
  4. If KLM are interested, the startup will run a pilot of their product or service. The duration depends on the ease of implementation and the investment needed. Estimated time: one month to one year.

The innovation managers will help connect startups to the right people within the different departments. After the connection is made, it is up to these people to move forward with a pilot. Decision-making varies depending on the product and the department.

Past collaborations

KLM has successfully collaborated with many startups, including:

  • Airfi: a MIF investment and a cooperation with both KLM and Transavia. They specialise in on-board inflight entertainment.
  • Talk 360 / Ringcredible: a cooperation on an ancillary product for KLM customers.
  • MRO Air: working towards an augmented-reality solution for mechanics.

Also, KLM has had a big involvement in the startup ecosystem by supporting startup-centric schemes such as the Mainport Innovation Fund, Launchpad Meetups, the Dutch Open Hackathon and Startup Challenge.

General tips and tricks for startups

  1. Try to connect with the corporate innovation team to facilitate your work.
  2. Understand the corporate innovation process (in general).
  3. Be patient.
  4. Know exactly what your product or service is.
  5. Remember the implementation aspects.