Aircraft leasing is flying for this hi-tech Limerick startup

Trish Dromey talks to two Limerick brothers whose start-up seeks to change how aircraft lessors do business

LIMERICK start-up CloudCARDS is seeking €1.5m for the global roll-out of an aircraft asset management system designed for use by airlines and aircraft leasing companies.

Launched earlier this year, this is the second software product for the company which was established in 2013, when brothers and co-founders Brian and Barry Fitzgerald saw an opportunity to supply services to Ireland’s booming airline leasing industry.

“We set out revolutionise the aircraft delivery, redelivery, and asset management process,” said CloudCARDS’ chief technology officer Barry Fitzgerald.

Its initial offering CARDS (Civil Aircraft Remote Delivery Systems), designed to manage the delivery and redelivery of leased aircraft, was launched in 2013. “We are now selling licenses around the world and our customers include some the world’s top aircraft leasing companies,” said Mr Fitzgerald.

CloudCARDS now has even bigger plans for its second product AMS (Asset Management Software) which was released late last year and is designed for use by both leasing companies and airlines to manage the day-to-day technical and financial transactions involved in leasing.

While the company’s first product CARDS can be used by leasing companies during the transition which takes place after a lease comes to an end, typically after five or ten years, Mr Fitzgerald says the AMS software is designed for everyday use by airlines and therefore presents CloudCARDS with a much more significant market opportunity.

An aircraft engineer who worked with Lufthansa Shannon for 16 years, CloudCARDS’ chief operating officer Brian Fitzgerald initially set up a consultancy company in 2006, providing services to aircraft leasing companies. Developing software which was used in-house to manage aircraft redelivery after leasing, he saw an opportunity to develop this as management tool and to set up a new company.

Together with his brother Barry, who has a background in engineering, he set up the company in Shannon in April 2013, raising €1.5m in private funding for the venture.

Starting out by targeting customers of the consultancy company, CloudCARDS won its first large contract in May 2014 with an Irish-based leasing operator.

Mr Fitzgerald says that the CARDS software platform is unique in using a mobile device which can carry out a physical inspection of the aircraft and in having a banking grade secure desktop version for the aircraft technical records.

The company has since built up sales to customers which include aircraft leasing company BBAM — which provides fleet to 200 airlines globally — as well as SMBC Aviation Capital which, headquartered in Ireland, is one of the world’s largest aircraft leasing companies.

Noting that many of the world’s largest global aircraft leasing companies now have operations in Ireland, and that half of all leased aircraft in the world are now leased out of Ireland, Mr Fitzgerald says the opportunities for CloudCARDS are significant.

In 2015, the company began work on developing its second system, AMS, which was launched last year. During 2017, CloudCARDS received €250,000 in High Potential Start-Up funding from Enterprise Ireland.

Although the marketplace is competitive, Mr Fitzgerald says that CloudCARD’s new system is more relevant to current industry processes than others on the market, and that the company is confident of success.

“We have already signed a Chinese leasing company with an office in Dublin which is using it for a fleet of planes, as well as an American leasing company based in Ireland. In monetary terms, this translates to assets valued at a total of $875m onboarded since January this year.”

By the end of this year, the company aims to have five or six customers for its asset management system. Currently in talks with investors with a view to raising €1.5m, Mr Fitzgerald says this money will primarily be used for the sales and marketing of its products globally.

CloudCARDS, which relocated to an office at Henry Street in Limerick at the start of the year, currently employs a staff of seven. “We are in the process of opening an office in Dublin and are scouting key international locations. We also plan to double our headcount in the next 12 months,” said Mr Fitzgerald.

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