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CEO Mike Israel of AirVuz on Becoming a Market Leader

AirVūz is establishing itself as a leading platform for drone videographers to share their work and for all to enjoy it. The site  was launched in late 2015 and features original programming as well as user generated content. We recently interviewed Mike Israel, CEO and founder on AirVūz and its position in the market.

Drone Life: What was the inspiration for starting AirVūz? 

Mike Israel: I saw basically the confluence of two things: first, an exposition in the quantity of very high quality visual media which can be created by civilian/consumer drones and second, the absence of a really good platform for sharing and consuming this type of media content.

Drone Life: In a related question, what excites you about the space you are in with this initiative?

Mark Israel, CEO, AirVuz

Mike Israel: What I love is the fact that drones have unleashed this enormous creative potential, and that AirVūz is becoming the place where this is playing out in terms of content. Many if not most of the world’s top aerial videographers and FPV pilots are active members of the AirVūz community, and they are producing jaw-dropping content that is being posted on the site every day. It’s incredible now and it continually gets better, in part because the equipment is getting better but also because the content creators are learning more and more new things about creating the best content with drones.

Drone Life: How would you “size” AirVūz (e.g. average views per week; avg. uploads per week; avg. monthly revenue)?

Mike Israel: I can give you some basic figures. AirVūz is currently ranked just under 19k on Alexa, meaning it’s just inside the 20k busiest sites on the Internet according to Alexa.com (which uses a combination of visit count and pageview count estimates to create its ranking). Our rise in Alexa ranking has been fairly rapid; as of October 2016, we were ranked right around 250k and we didn’t break 100k until around January 1 of this year.  With a rank of 19k, we believe that the only other drone-related website which is ranked higher than ours is dji.com.  Our visit count is currently in excess of 1 million per month. If you look at our site in terms of uploaded content, we are getting roughly 100-150 new video uploads per day, which has roughly doubled over the past 4-5 months. In terms of registered users, we currently have over 80k registered users and are getting new registrations at a rate of 800-1000 per day.

Drone Life: What have you learned since AirVūz has launched? Do the submissions you receive tell you anything in terms of where users interests are or what drones they fly etc.? Is there anything you would do differently if you had to do again? Anything in the course of starting this up that surprises you or you hadn’t expected?

Mike Israel: As you might expect I have learned a ton, although I can’t say that there is anything I have learned that would have caused me to fundamentally change the approach we have developed at AirVūz. There are lots of things I think we would have done different tactically, but I think in terms of the overall strategy, we seem to have had had it about right.

Drone Life: YouTube and Skypixel are only a couple of competitors in the crowdsourcing of drone videos – What makes AirVūz different?

Mike Israel:We really have two groups of competitors: (a) the universal video sharing sites (YouTube and Vimeo) and (b) sites which specialize in drone media (Skypixel being the most notable). With respect to the universal sharing sites, we think that they have profound limitations with respect to visual media content created by drones. I think the best way to address the question is to say that the AirVūz platform has been built to capitalize on the shortcomings of the universal video platforms with respect to both content creators and content consumers.  At the same time, we fully expect that the universal platforms will continue to be places where this type of content will be shared and consumed; we aren’t so foolish as to believe that we are going to take YouTube’s lunch away from them. With respect to Skypixel and a handful of similar sites, I think we’ve sufficiently broken out from the pack that we don’t consider them primary competition any more.  As noted above, AirVūz is currently ranked at 19k on Alexa; Skypixel is at about 46k and the next highest ranking site is at around 200k.

Drone Life: What consumer trends do you see developing?

Mike Israel: The big one is that the bar for getting into high quality aerial videography and photography is getting lower.  It’s just becoming more and more accessible to more people, including (importantly) people who are able to travel with the equipment.

For this we have to thank DJI as well as other companies such as Horizon Hobby, which are providing some of the same benefits that DJI has provided to the FPV world in terms of both making the product more accessible to newcomers and also easier to transport.

In terms of some specific products, we see a pretty immediate impact as new models get released and go into the stream of commerce. The most prominent example is the DJI Mavic. This product was announced in early fall 2016 and wasn’t widely available until well into the winter. I would say that on an average day a third of the content that is uploaded to our site is now from DJI Mavic’s.  The new DJI Spark will broaden the market still further. I fully expect that in a few months time we will start seeing a lot of Spark-created content.

Drone Life: Do you fly yourself? If so, what drone do you fly? Where do you like to fly?

Mike Israel: I was an RC plane and helicopter guy for years (before there were drones as we now think of them) and I still love that stuff.  In terms of multirotors, I flew a Blade Chroma and recently picked up a DJI Mavic, which I absolutely love.  I also do a little bit of FPV flying, but don’t think I have the hand-eye coordination to ever excel at that.

Drone Life: What are your goals for business over the next year?

Mike Israel: I would like to see AirVūz continue to grow at its current growth rate with respect to site traffic, content growth, and new user registrations. I also expect to see that our native app download base will grow substantially once we get v2 of the smartphone apps released in a few months.