In Sign of the Times, Private Jet Companies Pitch Valley VCs

This morning, a venture capitalist who has rarely enjoyed the privilege of “flying private” received solicitations from two different private jet companies — one within 20 minutes of the other.

Private aviation outfits like NetJets are already under pressure from the Transportation Security Administration, which reportedly intends to greatly expand its  screening of private aircraft. Fuel prices haven’t helped matters much, either: although the price of oil has dropped recently, according to data from the Energy Information Administration, through April 2008, U.S. jet fuel prices have risen approximately 30% per year over the past five years.

No wonder the downturn has hit private aviation like a bad case of wind shear. Golden parachutes are one thing, but nothing says corporate excess like a private jet. Indeed, the National Business Aviation Association has seen a slowdown in virtually every measure of business-aviation operations. It’s a “5 percent to 18 percent change versus the same time last year,” says Ed Bolen, its president.

Turning to VCs isn’t going to do much to boost those numbers. While GPs at some venture firms reportedly have enough jets to form their own air taxi service, flying private doesn’t seem to fit into the venture world’s current “green” ethos. More, while plenty of firms are now investing in China, India, Europe and elsewhere, the truth is that Valley VCs haven’t changed all that much over the years: most of them still want to drive to their investments.