Now residents at ilab after successfully completing the Germinate 7 accelerator program, Skyborne are developing their drone technology, while generating revenue by offering aerial media production services to their customers. In another in our series of ilab Alumni interviews, we talk to Thomas Cran, Skyborne’s Chief Operating Officer & Mechanical and Aerospace Engineer about their latest technology, their experience at ilab, what challenges they have overcome and the benefits of working in a startup.
Tell us more about Skyborne Technologies…
TC: We are developing a drone platform with high-speed capability and unmatched manoeuvrability, the drones we are building can hover and fly forward like a plane. Two prototypes have been built and we have conducted initial flight trials.
On the other side of the business to support our drone R&D activities we’re providing aerial media production services, primarily for real estate companies at this stage. It’s early days but the production business is going very well, we already have a number of customers.
Which markets can benefit from Skyborne’s technology?
TC: Part of the problem has been trying to narrow down that suitable niche market because this technology is so applicable to so many different problems out there. We have a good idea of where we want to go but because the technology isn’t quite there yet, we are unable to approach people, work out what their needs are explicitly and how our technology can help them.
We will know more 6-12 months down the track, when the technology is at a stage where we can start exploring avenues in more detail. The industries we are looking at are agriculture, construction, mining and potentially the military and medical field, further down the track.
What inspired you to join Skyborne Technologies?
TC: I came onboard because It’s not like a normal office job. I’m an engineer and sometimes you can just get lost in the technical branch of a company and you’re not appreciated, and sometimes you’re taken for granted.
In a business like this you can bring real change. Your work and designs have actual measurable outcomes. I also love learning new things, coming from an engineering background I didn’t know much about business. ilab was a great base for me to learn about business and to get in contact with a lot of people that were knowledgeable in that area.
The individual mentoring and workshops ilab setup make it really easy to connect to experienced professionals. During my time at ilab, I have been around a lot of like minded individuals, you can bounce ideas off each other – the atmosphere is really motivating.
Do you have any advice for anyone thinking about starting a business?
TC: If you have experience in business, go for it! Just make sure you evaluate your market and there is a need for what you are trying to do so you are not building something that people don’t want or need. If you are not experienced in business, like I wasn’t before I joined Skyborne at ilab, I would recommend getting in contact with people who are so you get the advice you need to build a successful business.
Any frustrations so far?
TC: The key frustration we are overcoming at the moment is the legalities surrounding drones that are common in this industry. On a personal level, the challenge I had when I first started with ilab 11 months ago is with the business language used and knowledge that I was surrounded by – it can be a bit difficult to take in until you get up to speed. Participating in the Germinate program made it a lot easier to understand business culture and it’s now much easier to have conversations with professional people today.
What are the next steps for Skyborne?
TC: To get our drone technology to a stage where the company can start looking at investment. In terms of the aerial media production, we are in the process of turning this area into a profitable side of the business and expand into the Australian market – but it’s still early days yet but it’s been extremely positive so far and we are very excited.
How has your time at ilab prepared you for getting investment?
TC: In Australia, the investment ecosystem is very different to the overseas market. It’s a lot more difficult to get the investment you need. ilab have been showing us what we need to do to get investment and the sorts of things we need to be talking about with investors – and what we are looking for in investors themselves.
Taking part in the Germinate Accelerator program has been a great business 101 for me personally, the program is not generalised, it is practical and relevant for Australian startups so you get a head start.