Color the Sky

Industry Leaders - - Power Players -

Dur­ing the ini­tial years of DJI, Frank had three peo­ple un­der his lead­er­ship: Jiny­ing Chen, Zhi­hui Lu and Chuqiang Chen. Zhi­hui Lu was the youngest mem­ber of the team, who shut his own small com­pany and moved to Shen­zhen with only 100 dol­lars in his pocket to join DJI. Jiny­ing Chen and “Thirty Thou­sand Chen” (Chuqiang Chen) had also given up their ex­ist­ing jobs to join the team. Chuqiang Chen, earned the nick name of Thirt Thou­sand Chen, as he was charged a penalty of 30,000 RMB for leav­ing his pre­vi­ous job, while he was still un­der a 3-year con­tract.

Fast for­ward the ini­tial years of DJI, and the com­pany had now moved into a man­u­fac­tur­ing hub of China in Shezhen. Wang funded the ven­ture us­ing what­ever money he had out of his uni­ver­sity schol­ar­ship. Dur­ing that pe­riod, he also made a video of the he­li­copter that he had made for the col­lege project and posted it on­line. The he­li­copter mod­els sold for 50,000 RMB (about $6,000) to clients such as Chi­nese uni­ver­si­ties and state-owned power com­pa­nies. Th­ese mod­els only costed Wang 15,000 RMB ($2,000) to make. The money helped him pay well to his small, but sig­nif­i­cant team mem­bers.

By the end of 2006, DJI was sell­ing around 20 flight con­trollers a month. Wang had also re­ceived an an­gel fund­ing of $90,000 from a close fam­ily friend Lu Di. By the end of 2008, DJI’S drones were un­der de­vel­op­ments of other co­founders.

To­day’s DJI is mak­ing more ad­vanced flight con­trollers with au­topi­lot func­tions. They’re mar­ket­ing at niche trade shows like a ra­dio-con­trolled he­li­copter gathering in the 70,000pop. town of Mun­cie, Ind. Their flight con­trollers cost be­tween $400 and $2,000.

Their sub­sidiary by the name of DJI North Amer­ica, has been formed with the help of Colin Guinn. The Amer­i­can sub­sidiary is aimed at de­liv­er­ing drones to the mass mar­ket. At DJI North Amer­ica, Colin Guinn holds 48% own­er­ship, with DJI hav­ing con­trol over the rest.

Over the last four years, DJI has gone on full pro­duc­tion mode, man­u­fac­tur­ing ev­ery­thing need to cre­ate a done: gim­bal and re­mote con­trol, frame,

soft­ware and pro­pel­lers. In 2013, DJI un­veiled its most am­bi­tious plan ever – Phan­tom. The Phan­tom was the world’s first ready-to-fly, pre-as­sem­bled Quad-copter that could be up in the air within an hour of its un-box­ing and wouldn’t break apart even after its first crash. The ease-of-use of the drone, un­locked the mar­ket un­known to ma­jor tech­nol­ogy com­pa­nies. DJI in­tended to break even on the Phan­tom’s $679 re­tail price. How­ever, when Phan­tom be­came its best­selling prod­uct, that too on very lit­tle mar­ket­ing, its rev­enue in­creased by five­fold. In May 2013, DJI bought out Colin Guinn’s stake in DJI North Amer­ica. This redi­rected all of its cus­tomer pay­ments to the China head­quar­ters. That year, DJI ended up col­lect­ing over $130 mil­lion in rev­enue.

By the end of 2014, DJI has ac­cu­mu­lated de­cent fund­ing from Se­quoia Cap­i­tal’s fund­ing round, and was val­ued at $1.6 bil­lion. The same year, it ended up with $500 mil­lion in rev­enues.

To­day, 30 per­cent of DJI’S rev­enue comes from the United States, 30 per­cent from Europe and 30 per­cent Asia, and the rest from Africa and Latin Amer­ica. Be­tween 2009 and 2014, DJI’S sales have ei­ther tripled or quadru­pled. It has also reached profitabil­ity and is now net­ting more than $140 mil­lion in profit.

Da-jiang In­no­va­tion Tech­nol­ogy has now grown on to be­come the world’s largest con­sumer drone man­u­fac­turer. In May 2015, it closed a $75 mil­lion round of fund­ing from Ac­cel Part­ners at a whoop­ing valu­a­tion of around $8 bil­lion. The de­mand for DJI Phan­tom drone’s has sky­rock­eted, that it has earned it­self a spot on the Ap­ple Store as well. In re­cent times, the US paved the way by giv­ing the green sig­nal for com­mer­cial drone op­er­a­tors ap­proved by the Fed­eral Avi­a­tion Ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Da-jiang In­no­va­tion Tech­nol­ogy has raised a to­tal eq­uity fund­ing of $105 mil­lion in 3 rounds from 3 In­vestors in­clud­ing: Light­house Cap­i­tal Man­age­ment, Ac­cel Part­ners, and Se­quoia Cap­i­tal. They have also in­vested an undis­closed amount in Has­sel­blad in Novem­ber 2015.

DJI has raised more funds in a new round, at a $10 bil­lion valu­a­tion, valu­ing Frank Wang’s 45% stake to be worth $4.5 bil­lion.

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