Skydio gets $3M to make drones (and their pilots) better navigators
A Q&A with Skydio co-founder and CEO Adam Bry. The Menlo Park-based startup, which has built an ‘intelligent’ drone navigation system, announced last week that it has raised $3 million in new Seed funding. Investors include Andreessen Horowitz and Accel Partners. It was founded last year by Bry, CXO Matt Donahoe and Abraham Bachrach.
SUB: Please describe Skydio and your primary innovation.
Bry: Skydio builds an intelligent navigation system that makes drones aware of their surroundings. Our breakthrough computer vision and motion planning algorithms make drones easy and intuitive for anyone to use without having to worry about running into stuff.
SUB: Who are your target markets and users?
Bry: We started Skydio to make the power of the aerial platform available for a much broader audience. Our core navigational technology opens up many construction monitoring and industrial inspection applications, while also making it easy for consumers to get great video without needing to be expert pilots.
SUB: Who do you consider to be your competition, and what differentiates Skydio from the competition?
Bry: The market for this technology is too early for the competitive landscape to be clear and we’ll bring our technology to market through partners, so mostly we see a lot of opportunities for collaboration.
Our focus is in developing both the core algorithmic technology and the incredible new user experiences that are possible when you don’t need an expert pilot holding a joystick controller.
SUB: You just announced that you’ve raised $3 million in Seed funding. Why was this a particularly good time to raise funding?
Bry: We’ve built a prototype system and we’re raising money to build our core technical team to get the product to market. We’re excited to have the support of Andreessen Horowitz and Accel—two great firms.
SUB: How do you plan to use the funds?
Bry: We’ll use the funding to turn our prototype into a real product. Of course, the route to doing that is through a great team.
SUB: What was the inspiration behind the idea for Skydio? Was there an ‘aha’ moment, or was the idea more gradual in developing?
Bry: I’d say it was more gradual. I’ve been playing with RC planes for most of my life. Our founding team was all at MIT together working on a bunch of closely related technology and ideas. My master’s project was an airplane that could fly itself through a parking garage. As we watched the drone market develop it just became clear that reliable navigation was going to be a big blocker; we were in a great position to build the tech, and that it would be super fun.
SUB: What were the first steps you took in establishing the company?
Bry: We spent a lot of time early on playing with existing systems like the DJI Phantom. On the one hand it’s incredible to experience the potential of the platform, but because of our backgrounds we also saw so much more that could be done.
SUB: How did you come up with the name? What is the story or meaning behind it?
Bry: ‘Sky’ plus ‘studio.’ We want to turn the sky into a studio for everyone to use.
SUB: What have the most significant challenges been so far to building the company?
Bry: I think everyone around the drone space has to be aware of and get past the noise. Because drones are ‘hot’ right now—they’re getting a lot of buzz, but at the end of the day it will be the products that really deliver value for the end user that will matter.
SUB: How do you generate revenue or plan to generate revenue?
Bry: We will work with drone manufacturers and service providers to integrate our technology.
SUB: What are your goals for Skydio over the next year or so?
Bry: Get our tech in end users’ hands!