A local drone startup is hoping a pivot and an accelerator will help the firm reach new heights.
DroneEntry, an Ottawa-based company that’s been bootstrapped for its first year in business, has been accepted into Hong Kong-based accelerator Brinc.
A place in the cohort means the firm will give up less than 10 per cent of its equity. Membership also comes with a modest amount of pre-seed funding and the expectation to raise a full seed round once the program runs its course.
Brinc’s venture capital investors have put a valuation of US$1.6 million on DroneEntry at this stage, according to the firm’s founder and CEO Uzayr Sedeke.
The Carleton University graduate says the acceptance is a high point in the firm’s short existence, but it didn’t come easily.
DroneEntry began as a professional and social platform for drone pilots who were looking for work, friends to fly with or information on unmanned aerial vehicle regulations in their area. Sedeke, who will be speaking at the Silicon Valley Drone Show next week, says it would’ve been tough to get traction with the original idea, which would’ve seen DroneEntry fighting for users with incumbent platforms.
The firm has found early success with a recent pivot. Instead of being a platform where pilots could gather, it has become a tool to help pilots assert their qualifications on other platforms.
Though Sedeke stresses DroneEntry is not trying to be a social media giant, its new model works similar to the way users can apply for jobs through their LinkedIn profiles or use a Facebook profile to sign in to another service. Users’ profiles will be plugged into stakeholders’ platforms, complete with a pilot’s level of training, experience and any relevant certifications.
Sedeke says that’s something that service providers and regulators such as Transport Canada can increasingly use as hobby pilots attempt to commercialize their drones. There's been some initial success: San Francisco’s DroneDeploy, a UAV data mapping service, will integrate DroneEntry into its app marketplace, allowing users to create a profile with the firm's tool.
“With non-conventional users streaming into the drone industry, it’s creating an uncertainty, and that’s what Drone Entry would be establishing: a trust builder.”
Pushed to the Brinc
Though it’s headquartered in Hong Kong, the Brinc accelerator operates mostly remotely with offices around the world.
Its website says it’s “ultra-hands on,” and DroneEntry got its first taste of that style with a month-long due diligence period. Brinc’s team picked apart the Ottawa firm’s business model and gave the team weekly assignments on how it would reach scalability.
“That was where we were getting stuck,” Sedeke says.
It wasn’t until the last week of due diligence that DroneEntry had pieced together the model to convince Brinc it could scale globally.
The team of seven has little time to catch its breath. With the acceptance locked down, DroneEntry execs will soon travel to Hong Kong for a month of education and training. The hope is that afterwards, the firm is in a position to raise a few hundred thousand dollars and get to work on executing its plan.