The 3 finalists in the Startup Showdown gave their pitches to a team of venture capital judges and a packed audience at last week’s Xponential conference.
The finalists: Dronesmith Technologies, Dronomy, and Vanilla Aircraft each had a chance to give a slide presentation explaining their business to the group of investor experts, which included Airware Founder Jonathan Downing, Qualcomm Ventures’ Gareth Keene, Westbury Group Partner Jonathan Rubin, and MZ Zaveri, Partner at KPCB.
All three participants offered innovative technology with a clear route to revenue. Dronesmith Technologies Co-founder Jinger Zeng started out the contest, introducing Luci, the world’s first field-programmable flight controller. Offering a “drone development 2.0” Platform as a Service solution, Luci is geared towards providing drone innovators with the tools they need to create new applications.
“We help developers realize their drone application ideas,” she says. “We are developer focused…We are dedicated to making the best developer tools in the market – the developers will be the ones to empower the industry.”
While new the product has already shipped to 20-30 developers and has had several applications created.
Co-founder and CEO Ori Aphek introduced Dronomy, a construction drone offering 1cm level mapping with their proprietary sense-and-avoid technology. Aphek gave a slick presentation showing the drone circling a structure under construction to give an incredible view of the structure from all angles. He described the solution as “The first situation-aware drone solution for construction, that captures precise images autonomously, while avoiding obstacles.”
Finally, Jeremy Navara introduced Vanilla aircraft. His presentation, his website, and his product are simple – but brilliantly so. Navara described an ordinary endurance aircraft, one that can fly for 10 days with a 30-pound payload. A simple graph demonstrated the gap that the aircraft fills in the market – other models offer short flights with heavy payload or long flights with low payload, while Vanilla fits right into the middle – where no other drones fit.
“There’s no magic – it carries a lot of fuel, and it’s very efficient,” says Navara. “It’s about affordability and scalability.”
The company has produced two prototype products for testing – and plan to complete a 100 hour flight next week, which will be a world record.
While Jonathan Downing said that there were “great contestants all around…” the judges ultimately chose Vanilla in a tough decision, based on the stage that the company had reached. “How far they’ve gotten with their product was a major factor,” said Downing.
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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