Cyrus Sigari says there is an innate human desire to ascend.
“When you’re on top, you see the world differently,” he said in a recent Inside interview Thad Feldhaus at Bentonville Municipal Airport. “You connect with nature. It has an adventure element.”
Sigari, an aviator, entrepreneur, author and investor, is the co-founder and managing partner of UP.Partner, an early-stage venture capital firm in California that invests in technology companies supporting advanced air mobility (AAM) and electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft. Last October, the company announced a fund worth nearly a quarter billion dollars to invest in “the game-changing entrepreneurs creating the key technologies that help make people and goods cleaner, faster, safer and more efficient in a multidimensional world.” move the world.”
Sigari recently spoke at the Heartland Summit in Bentonville. The two-day meeting by invitation only convened May 11 at the Record venue downtown with multiple voice actors including members of the Walton family.
The peak is the hallmark of heartland forward in Bentonville. Heartland Forward was officially launched in the fall of 2019 — a year after the first iteration of the Heartland Summit — and is spearheaded by members of the Walton family and led by former Walton Fellow and Milken Institute Chief Research Officer Ross DeVol. It is the first US think tank to focus solely on the heartland region’s economic situation.
Organizers say their goal was to encourage action by bringing together people who play a role in the success stories of thriving areas of America’s heartland.
In multiple breakout sessions on the final day of the Summit at various locations throughout Bentonville, attendees discussed strategies on multiple issues and shared insights on moving forward in the heartland.
Sigari attended a session discussing a burgeoning space that Morgan Stanley says will become a $1.4 trillion market by 2040. Advanced Air Mobility is a new concept in air transportation that transports cargo and people between locations using innovative aircraft.
He shared the stage with Steuart Walton, a pilot and founder and chairman of game composites, a Bentonville company that designs and builds small compound aircraft. Its signature product is the GB1 GameBird, the only FAA certified two-seat aircraft Made in the USA for unlimited aerobatics. Tom Ward, Walmart US Executive Vice President and Chief E-Commerce Officer, also participated in the panel discussion.
An outgoing and dedicated employee, Sigari also serves as the Chair of the Arkansas Council on Future Mobility of Gov. Asa Hutchinson. Earlier this year, the governor formed a task force to make state policy recommendations to support the private sector in AAM areas and to attract related companies, start-ups, innovators and creators to the state.
Hutchinson formed the task force Strengthen the state’s collective vision to be a global leader in the future of next-generation technology transportation by 2030. These include the ability to fly cars and driverless vehicles and drones.
Sigari said he currently spends about half his time in Bentonville.
“There is no place that moves more things than this region,” he said. “If you invest in future technologies that will change that [industry], you need to be where the action is. Not in Silicon Valley, not in Detroit, not in Wichita, not in Munich. It is located in Northwest Arkansas.
“Personally the [quality of life] The work that Steuart and Tom are doing is quite amazing. It feels like being at camp as an adult with all the fun things happening.”
Steuart Walton and his brother Tom are directors of the Bentonville Holding Company runway groupwho invest in numerous areas to improve the quality of life in the region.
“BENEFITS FOR EVERYONE”
Sigari, a first-generation Iranian, was born in 1982 to refugee parents who fled Iran during the Islamic Revolution. As a child he was consumed by his passion for flying.
“My first real inspiration was ‘Top Gun,'” he said, referring to the 1986 film starring Tom Cruise. “As a kid, that got me pretty excited about the future and jets and flying around.”
Sigari, 40, took his first flying lesson at age 11 – a birthday present – and flew solo at 16. At 17, Sigari earned his private pilot license and at 18 he became one of the youngest commercial pilots in the country. He received his airline pilot certification at the age of 23.
In addition to owning dozens of airplanes, he is also a helicopter pilot and owner, and he graduated from Purdue University’s Aerospace Engineering program.
In 2006 he co-founded the jet brokerage company JetAviva, which has grown into one of the world’s largest suppliers of business jets with annual sales of over US$400 million. He said this experience deepened his appreciation for the power of community and helping people connect.
“It exposed me to a lot of things that are happening around technology that could move the needle,” he said. “Not just for the top 1% of society. To go from helping billionaires to helping billions [of people]. The things we speak about have the long-term ability to help humanity experience the physical world.
“Only one in five people has ever flown. What happens when you unlock mass mobility on an entire planet like we did in cities with cars? This is my “why”. That gets me going every day.”
Sigari said there are signs of advances towards technology to support a flying car future, although some restrictions will make that difficult.
One of them is avoiding anything that might make life worse instead of better.
“How could it make life worse? No. 1 is noise,” he explained. “Noise pollution is something nobody likes. It’s not going to work if you start thinking about hundreds of thousands of these things in the air with this noise profile. The good news is that technology is now being developed to make rotors and air movement much quieter. Whisper quiet.
“Second, it must be for the benefit of all.”
California-based UP.Partners hosts its annual UP.Summit from June 6th to 8th in Bentonville. It’s touted as the mobility industry’s premier annual gathering, and Wired magazine in June 2018 dubbed it “the secretive conference planning to bring flying cars to market.”
This invitation-only meeting was held in Bentonville and attracted about 100 people. Cyrus Sigari, managing partner of UP.Partners, said the conference brought out five new products from the talks started there. The summit began informally as a gathering in Montana in 2017. It is now convened in annual rotations between Bentonville, co-hosted by Tom and Steuart Walton, and Dallas, co-hosted by real estate developer and investor Ross Perot Jr.
“It is the outstanding gathering of leaders who are transforming the moving world,” said Sigari. “From the largest companies to the most inspiring entrepreneurs, financiers and investors.”
Sigari said the UP.Summit had a significant impact, resulting in over $450 million in direct investments in participating companies.
The Bentonville meeting is by invitation only, but organizers have scheduled a community day to be held on Sunday, June 5 from 12 noon to 4 p.m. at the Bentonville Municipal Airport. It’s free and includes interactive technology demonstrations, live music, and flyovers.