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To gain a true understanding of your customers and their needs, you must remain in constant contact with them.

That is the advice of Steve Uhrmacher, CEO of i6 Group, an aviation fuel management software firm selected for Tech Nation’s Upscale growth programme.

Farnborough-based i6’s mission is to disrupt the inefficient, manual, paper-based fuelling processes used at airports. Uhrmacher says British Airways became its launch customer as it digitalised fuel management at the UK’s largest airport Heathrow.

“It was always important to us to have strong values and customer relationships, especially when trying to disrupt and innovate within the aviation industry,” he tells TechBlast. “Our values allowed us to build trust with our customers and develop positive relationships over time. 

“By constantly interacting with and listening to our customers, we were able to truly understand where and how we could add value.” 

Digitalising fuel usage at airports

i6 Group, which is co-led by COO Alex Mattos, was founded in 2013. It offers a real-time platform for fuel inventory and accounting, into-plane refuelling, refueller-airline communication (e-fuelling), and key information dashboards for airlines and suppliers.

i6 Group

By tracking the end-to-end fuel management process, its customers can better understand and optimise their fuel usage. “For example, part of our platform optimises refuel efficiency by digitalising the airline fuel order approval process – which is typically an in-person, paper-based process required at airports before flight departure,” explains Uhrmacher. “This can often lead to over-fuelling due to delays in the approval process.” 

Instead, i6’s eHandshake technology allows the pilot to communicate with the refueller digitally to interact with and accept the fuel order. It says that with better fuel tracking and visibility, over-fuelling, operational costs and delays are all reduced. 

The company secured a Series A round of funding in February 2020 featuring International Airlines Group (IAG), Shell, World Fuel Services and JetBlue Ventures.

“It was important to us to have a balance of international airlines and supplier investors, ensuring the entire market is well represented,” says Uhrmacher.

‘Tech is a tool, not an end in itself’

Global growth

The round was completed as COVID-19 began to ground the world’s commercial air traffic. “The impact of the pandemic was a shock to the entire aviation industry,” reflects the CEO. “However, we’re now seeing an increase in demand for greener technology as airlines and suppliers drive towards climate targets.

“We’ve also adapted to the resource challenges facing the tech industry with our remote-first workforce approach. This has allowed us to hire the best talent and quickly develop an international team.”

i6 now has a headcount of 85 – and growing –  as it continues to scale globally including in the US, Asia and Africa.

“We’re also developing new products and features to provide more value from the data we collect – helping customers improve operational efficiency even further,” says Uhrmacher.

“Our ultimate goal is to enable climate action within the aviation industry – providing a better way of managing and optimising fuel usage across all touchpoints. This solution could then transcend aviation and be applied across other industries, such as shipping and logistics.”

Upscale programme

i6 is among 35 companies accepted onto the eighth edition of Tech Nation’s Upscale. The six-month government-backed programme is designed to support and scale the most promising mid-stage tech companies in the UK, at a critical stage of their growth.

The companies will receive over 60 hours of support at world-class coaching sessions – delivered by over 20 expert scale coaches – attend networking events with key stakeholders, peers, corporates and investors, and have access to a range of online resources, designed to tackle fundamental scaling challenges around culture, talent, international expansion and financing. 

“Alongside recognition as one of the UK’s most promising and fastest-growing tech scaleups, we look forward to the support around international growth and engaging investor communities,” Uhrmacher says.

“We’ve already participated in workshops and events, which have been very insightful for our team. The Upscale programme will support our growth as one of the fastest-growing tech businesses in the UK.”

Cooper Parry, Cooley and Silicon Valley Bank will be Programme Partners for this year’s Upscale programme.

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