Better airplane seating. It might be one of those things you only think about while you’re actually on an airplane. Your tiny seat, the acrobatics you do to reach your luggage, your neighbor’s trash spilling into your lap. Once off the plane, though, you’ve moved on.
But Matthew Daimler, who earned his BS in computer engineering from the Whiting School in 1999, doesn’t move on. He thinks about these things all the time. “One or two inches of legroom really makes a lot of difference,” says Daimler. “It’s your laptop opening up all the way or not.”
Daimler is the CEO and founder of SeatGuru.com, a website that tracks and analyzes every factor involved with individual comfort during airplane travel.
Leg room. Seat width. How much distance to the bulkhead, the lavatory, or the emergency exit: Daimler measures inches. He counts rows. He observes his proximity to power ports, the locations of televisions, and whether or not the tray table is stowed in the armrest or on the seatback in front of him. And then, he uploads it all to SeatGuru.
Say you’re traveling to Paris. Click on the link for Air France, select the 747-400, and learn that, on this particular plane, seats 29 E, F, G, and H are behind a bulkhead so they have extra legroom. But hold on. These seats also have less seat width thanks to immovable armrests, are close to the lavatories, and have no floor storage during takeoff and landing. That’s a mixed review.
For Daimler, it all began with his own discomfort. “I was on a flight to Prague from San Francisco,” he recalls. “After takeoff, the guy in front of me had enough space to use his carryon as a footrest. I was so jealous.”
Spurred by that sentiment, Daimler launched SeatGuru in 2002, together with his wife, Susan, also a Hopkins alum (A&S ’99). Initially, about 100 people a day were looking at the site. Now it averages 30,000 a day; 700,000 a month; 8.4 million a year.
Who are those 8.4 million people? “The assistant to the president of Standard & Poor’s told me that SeatGuru makes her job much easier,” Daimler says. “People say, ‘I was on the phone with the airline and they said to go check SeatGuru and call them back.’ Airlines themselves call me and want me to add their airline to the site,” he says. Daimler receives e-mails from pilots and flight attendants. Strangers next to him on flights suggest the site to him. He’s even been asked to autograph a boarding pass.
In March of 2004, Susan Daimler became SeatGuru’s first full-time employee. And this past January, increasing ad revenues made it possible for Daimler himself to become the company’s second full-time employee.
As an undergraduate, Daimler combined a major in computer engineering with a minor in entrepreneurship and management, two programs that were created while he was an undergraduate. “It’s great that Hopkins Engineering recognized the trend in technology and developed majors and minors like that,” Daimler says, adding, “While I was at Hopkins I dreamt about running a business like SeatGuru.”