Dreams Take Flight
Frank Wang, 34, is the world’s first drone billionaire. He is the founder and CEO of Da-jiang Innovation Technology, also known as DJI, a privately-held drone-maker with estimated 2015 revenue of $1 billion and a valuation of $10 billion.
DJI, as a whole controls 70% of the consumer unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) market share through sales of its trademark Phantom drones, wherein frank is said to own about 45% of DJI. Last year, the company sold roughly 400,000 drones. Its sales have quadrupled each year since 2009.
In May 2015, the Shenzhenbased drone maker inked the biggest deal in commercial drone history with Accel Partner, a venture capitalist from Silicon Valley. It secured $75 million in investment, in an attempt to bolster the Skyfund initiative. The Skyfund is a joint initiative between Accel and DJI, which aims to advance the drone developer ecosystem. Using the money, DJI can develop and amplify existing and newer technology for mapping, imaging, agriculture, surveillance, and inspection software.
Over the last three years, DJI has made it to the international headlines for all kinds of reasons. Injanuary 2015, a small drone, called the DJI Phantom, operated by a civilian,entered into the airspace of the White House lawn and crash-landed. In one, a Phantom 2 drone containing radiation, landed on the roof of the Japanese prime minister’s office. In another one, a DJI drone was used to sneak drug weapons, drugs, and a mobile phone into a prison courtyard outside of London.
In an interview with Forbes in May 2015, Frank Wang passed it off as irrelevant.
When young Wang was rejected by his top choices, he joined East China Normal University, and later ended up at the Hong Kong University of Science & Technology in 2003. At first, he didn’t really care much about what he was doing with his life. But, during his senior year, he found his one true love, building helicopter flight-control systems, which led him to his destiny. Before Wang started the company, he spent three months intensively working on a graduation project. His robotics professor Li Zexiang has noticed Frank’s group leadership and technical understand, whichhe had brought into the group project.it was at a time when he was still enrolled in university. Of course, like any techie would do, Wang skipped all of his
courses and went straight to his home in Shenzhen to work on his dream project. He would wake up at 2 p.m. and work until 5 or 6 a.m. for days at a time. Under the mentorship of Professor Li Zexiang, Frank managed to develop the unmanned miniature helicopter, which achieved world’s first flight on Mount Everest by reaching nearly to the top. This was four years ago, which led to the formation of Da-jiang Innovation Technology – DJI, the company, which is now the biggest drone manufacturer in the world. When Wang first started DJI, they only made flight-control system. Today, DJI drones are being used on the sets of the newest Star Wars film and Game of Thrones and its products are filling merchants’ pockets. It is quite hard to believe that only ten years ago, young Wang was launching DJI out of his dorm room.
The son of an engineer father and a teacher-turned-small-businessowner, Wang is living the dream. Wang may have been rejected fromthe American elites such as MIT or Stanford, but the tables have turned. Today, he’s hiring the top one percent from these universities.