New investment: Propeller Aerobotics

Continuing my experiment with blogging briefly about the seed investments I’m making, it’s time to blog about why I’ve invested in Propeller Aerobotics.

In most cases, Aussie startups are at a disadvantage if they’re not in Silicon Valley. But I’ve invested in the October 2015 AUD$1M seed round of Propeller Aerobotics led by Blackbird Ventures because if you’re in the business of providing drone surveying of industrial sites, Australia is the best possible market in the world to start from.

It’s well known that Australia has a more favourable regulatory regime for commercial drone operation than the US and there’s a burgeoning cottage industry providing video and real estate photography here as a result. But less well known is there’s $4b domestic market for mapping and surveying, which supplies a $335b domestic construction industry with highly sensitive, very valuable data, and at the moment it’s very fragmented, proprietary, and siloed.

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Hey Propeller, I need to know exactly how many tonnes of that purple stuff I have left

Propeller is developing a cloud platform to turn small drone operators into enterprise suppliers that can provide rich, accurate and safer surveys, maps, and inspections. In the future, drones connected to enterprise database systems by Propeller’s cloud platform will tell customers when the top of a mobile phone tower needs repainting, where the stress cracks are in the side of the dam wall, and exactly how many millions of tons of iron ore is in that huge pile today, compared to yesterday.

I was lucky to get to know Rory and Francis, the co-founders, during the Startmate accelerator program, and hung out with them and their small team in San Francisco in April. They impressed the hell out of me with their work ethic, down-to-earth attitude, their ability to be highly technical but also confident socially. They’ve also made some really high calibre hires.

I’ll keep my own drone flying limited to vanity-filming of my outdoor adventures but if you think drones are all about spying on your hot neighbour and shooting your own surf movie, you’ve missed a $50B opportunity that Propeller is going to own.

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And also what the area of that pile of blue stuff is

I’m Alan Jones, an EiR for startup accelerators, GP at M8 Ventures. Previously investor, founder, and early Yahoo PM. Opinions mine (but should also be yours).

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