San Francisco-based drone mapping platform DroneDeploy just scored another $25 million in funding.  Here’s why that’s not surprising.

This week I had a conversation with an investment banker, who mentioned casually that the VC appetite for drone companies had diminished in the last year.  With the drone industry moving a bit more slowly than expected on some fronts – blame it on regulation or just realism –  venture capitalists realize that a big payback from a new drone company might be a little while in coming.

Based upon the announcements that come to DRONELIFE, that seems to be true – sort of.  The reality is that the investment community fully recognizes the benefits of drone technology.  The heady early days of unbridled optimism are over, however: these days you need something solid to get attention.  You need customers.

That’s something that DroneDeploy can offer.  Five year old DroneDeploy still looks and feels like a startup.  They’re based in the lower-rent warehouse district of San Francisco’s South of Market neighborhood.  Their employees answer emails at all hours.  Their serious and brilliant CEO, Mike Winn, is very present and runs the show.  Winn says that the company operates like a startup: they are designed for high growth and nimble operations.  “The needs of the customers are changing fast, and the capabilities of the technology are changing fast,” he says. “We need to be able to respond.”

Unlike most startups, however, DroneDeploy boasts over 30,000 platform users.  The numbers are more than impressive: 30,000 users have mapped 30 million acres in 180 countries on 400,000 job sites.  It’s a broad reach, and it’s proof that the product is not only viable but valuable on commercial worksites.

That value, says Winn, is the key difference about this stage of the drone market.  “In 2018, it’s not just about building a drone.  There are mature solutions in the field, solving real business problems.”

This most recent round was led by the Invenergy Future Fund, “a venture capital firm focused on making technology investments into early-stage companies that make energy and industrial operations more affordable, reliable, and secure,” says the DroneDeploy press release.

“Our investment process into this market was customer-led,” says John Tough, a Partner at the Invenergy Future Fund. “The consistent theme we heard from customers is that DroneDeploy’s product and accompanying applications help achieve significant ROI and reduce risk on the job site. We are excited about the early and growing market leadership the company has established in power and energy industries.”

We’ve written before about DroneDeploy’s growth.  Their continued release of new features, strategic partnerships, and robust App Market have all helped them to gain market position.  With this new funding, DroneDeploy says it will extend their lead by “expanding their ecosystem of over 80 platform apps and integrations, and accelerating a series of industry-focused solutions,” says a company release.  Winn says they’ll double down on their industry verticals, and work on providing more for their client base.  “We’ve got those customers, and we get a lot of feedback from those customers,” Winn says. “We’re always thinking about how we can do more, how we can solve the real business problems they face.  With this funding, you’re going to see a lot of investment from us in solving those problems.”

The round is also backed by AirTree, one of the largest venture capital firms in Australia, as well as existing investors, Scale Venture Partners, Uncork Capital, Emergence Capital and AngelPad. The Series C funding round brings the total amount of equity investment raised by DroneDeploy to over $56M.

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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