Interview: Joe Charman, founder of Pilot Plus

Joe Charman is a 20-year-old business student from Swansea University and has developed a flight simulation software business that caters to over 3000 customers.

He launched Pilot Plus when he was just 16 and now leads a team of three employees. His business creates 3D representations of real-world airports.

We recently caught up with Joe. He tells us more about the company, how he manages a business alongside his degree and his ambitions for the future.

TD: What does your company do?

JC: A few years ago, I created Pilot Plus. We replicate real world environments, primarily of airports, which we apply to aviation simulation.

In the past few years the, business has grown from ONE  customer to a few thousand, and the team has grown from just me to several people. Each ‘airport’ is a product, with the average customer being a pilot in training or just an enthusiast.

TD: Why did you set your company up?

JC:  I set up Pilot Plus with the aim of creating the most realistic experience possible for training pilots, as I was personally disappointed by the unrealistic visual experience.

Despite growing to a small team, who are creating some fantastic work, there is still a long road ahead. Our ambitions are high, and we’re constantly innovating to provide a better experience for pilots.

TD: What has your start-up journey been like, and how do you manage it alongside your degree? 

The journey so far has been great fun and very rewarding but has come with many challenges too. Like every entrepreneurial journey,  it’s going to be difficult.

There’s been a mix of challenges, both personal and business. But as a team, we are resilient to push through. For example, a large challenge we faced early on was a European lawsuit, although thankfully all was resolved peacefully.

Balancing work between business and university hasn’t been that much of a challenge. There are times I have to prioritise university work first, but it’s easy to balance.

TD: What has been its biggest success?

JC: One of the biggest successes and rewards so far has been client satisfaction, receiving feedback from clients on how they love Pilot Plus and the products. One of the other great rewards is having a great team who believe in the vision of the business and are dedicated to making great things happen.

TD: What advice would you give to the next generation of entrepreneurs?

JC: I’d say jump straight into the deep end, and figure out the rest later. Starting a business is fantastic fun and very rewarding, and you’ll learn a lot. You’ve got to be dedicated to always pushing forward and making progress.