Dave Kroetsch can’t stop smiling.
His company, Aeryon Labs, has just won the second of its two awards at the 2014 Ontario Export Awards, an exclusive November luncheon, and Kroetsch, outfitted in a bright turquoise shirt and snappy matching stripped tie, shakes hands as he makes his way onstage to collect the award for Exporter of the Year.
Despite a biting wind on that cold and grey day at the International Centre in Toronto, there are plenty of warm feelings for the Waterloo, Ont.-based manufacturer of small unmanned aerial systems (sUASs), more commonly known as “drones.”
Aeryon is taking two trophies, having also won the top prize in the Consumer Products category at the awards event presented by Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters, CanadianManufacturing.com and PLANT.
After he collects the hardware, colleagues and peers launch a barrage of congratulations, back pats and hand shakes. Kroetsch is still smiling.
He needn’t have been too surprised by the wins. The company he founded with two University of Waterloo pals has had enormous success during its short existence and is continually breaking away from the stereotype associated with drones.
Until recently, they were mostly used for covert military operations in conflict zones. Aeryon is leading an industry charge to introduce a new kind of drone that has applications in a number of commercial and industrial activities, as well as safety and humanitarian efforts. And it’s having an impact in worldwide markets.
“Nobody knew what a drone was seven years ago,” says Kroetsch, 35, Aeryon’s president and CEO. “We’ve created a market for these vehicles, which changes how you sell them – that’s been our biggest challenge – it’s more of a customer education process.”
Alan is serial entrepreneur, active angel investor, and a drone enthusiast. He co-founded DRONELIFE.com to address the emerging commercial market for drones and drone technology. Prior to DRONELIFE.com, Alan co-founded Where.com, ThinkingScreen Media, and Nurse.com. Recently, Alan has co-founded Crowditz.com, a leader in Equity Crowdfunding Data, Analytics, and Insights. Alan can be reached at alan(at)dronelife.com