2017 IPO Prospects: DJI Drones Drive Its Soaring Valuation

According to a report by Grand View Research, the commercial drone market was pegged at $552 million in 2014 and was projected to grow 17% annually through 2022. Another report by the researcher estimates stellar growth in the consumer drone market, which is expected to be worth $4.19 billion by 2024. Overall, the drone industry is dominated by Chinese Billion Dollar Unicorn club member DJI.

DJI’s Offerings

Shenzhen, Guangdong-based DJI was founded by Frank Wang Tao whose love for flying devices began after he read animated books about the adventures of a red helicopter in elementary school. As a kid, he read a lot about model airplanes and dreamt of having his own device that would fly and follow him with a camera. Wang wasn’t a very good student, but on receiving good marks in an exam, he was rewarded with a remote-controlled helicopter, which he soon crashed. His unimpressive performance at school meant that he could not get into MIT or Stanford. So he ended up studying electronic engineering at the Hong Kong University of Science & Technology.

In his senior year, Wang built a helicopter flight-control system, which did not do too well in the class presentation. But his dedication to the project was noticed by his robotics professor, who then brought him into the school’s graduate program. Till 2006, Wang built prototypes of flight controllers out of his dorm room with his two classmates. In 2006, the three of them moved to Shenzhen where they worked out of a three-bedroom apartment. These initial stages of DJI were funded by Wang and his classmates from whatever was left of their university scholarship. The company grew gradually by selling components for DIY drones. The revenues from the component sales helped DJI support a small staff. By the end of2006, most funding had finished and DJI survived by getting funding of $90,000 from Wang’s family friend Lu Di.

By 2011, the company had established a US presence and a partnership with Colin Guinn who took care of US sales and English-language marketing. That partnership had a bitter ending within two years. But during those two years, the company made significant progress.

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Author: Travis Esquivel

Travis Esquivel is an engineer, passionate soccer player and full-time dad. He enjoys writing about innovation and technology from time to time.

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