Color the Sky
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.