DJI Founder Frank Wang is a unicorn billionaire, Forbes Magazine reports. A so-called unicorn is a startup company valued at $1 billion dollars or more, and 25 members of the 2016 Forbes Billionaires list have made their money this way.
With a reported market share of over 70% in the consumer drone market, DJI has a current valuation of $8 billion and has created 3 billionaires: Founder Frank Wang, DJI marketing head Swift Xie, and Lu Di, and investor.
Unicorn billionaires like 35 year old Wang tend to be younger than other people of similar wealth – the average age is 36, about half the average age of all of the billionaires in the world. These tech superstars have risen quickly – almost half of the unicorn billionaires are new to the list this year – but their fortunes are volatile. GoPro’s well publicized problems – and accompanying drop in stock price – since its June 2014 IPO have taken their CEO Nick Woodman off of the list: others who make it onto the list with new funding rounds fall off in subsequent years as the stakes of founding members are diluted.
Venture funding for drone startups soared to over $850 billion last year, and DJI got nearly half of that, raising $575 million in two rounds of funding. Compared to social media app SnapChat, also on the unicorn list but still without any visible source of revenue, the Chinese drone manufacturer may look like a comparatively safe investment. As the drone market continues to expand globally and drone regulations are formalized in many regions, DJI’s potential is growing by the day; and their drones are being snatched off of the shelves by willing consumers. Recent moves to take their drones into the commercial realm could expand their market even further.
As the drone market heats up, however, the competition grows. China is developing a cluster of drone manufacturers and new players enter the ring daily, all clamoring for investment. DJI will have to maintain their momentum to hang on to the market dominance they enjoy partly as a result of first-mover advantage. For now, though, Frank Wang, Swift Xie, and Lu Di can enjoy the prestige of being on a list of rare creatures – the unicorn billionaire.
Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
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