Skydio soars to a $2.2 billion valuation after raising $230m Series E

Drones are quickly becoming more than a flying selfie cameras. Amid growing geopolitical tensions, drone makers are seeing increased demand and acceptance as drones move farther from consumers’ hands.

Skydio today announced a $230 million series E fundraising round and the construction of a new manufacturing facility in America. The company says it’s seen a 30x growth over the last three years and is now the largest drone manufacturer in the United States. The Series E round was led by Linse Capital, with participation from existing investors Andreessen Horowitz, Next47, IVP, DoCoMo, NVIDIA, the Walton Family Foundation, and UP.Partners. Hercules Capital, and Axon, the company behind the Taser and police body cameras, also invested in Skydio.

Skydio says its drones are used in every branch of the U.S. Department of Defense, by over half of all U.S. State Departments of Transportation, and by over 200 public safety agencies in 47 states. But, of course, it helps that government agencies cannot purchase or use drones from the market leader DJI because of security concerns.

In a released statement, Skydio co-founder and CEO Adam Bry says the company sees “extraordinary demand globally from organizations addressing needs important to every citizen.” This includes, in his view, core industries such as transportation, public safety, energy, construction, communications, defense, and more.

Skydio sets itself apart from the competition on its autonomous capabilities. The company had viral success with its original drone that featured a market-leading collision avoidance detection. The company still offers such capabilities but has pushed the industry forward with additional features and capabilities. Last December, Skydio announced a docking station and a new platform that allows drone operators to be flown without an on-site operator. Current regulations around visual piloting limit this product, but Skydio has a solution for that, too, and now works with companies to expand their drone programs.

The new Skydio manufacturing facility is based in Hayward, CA. The facility is 36,000 square feet, a 10x increase in capacity over current levels. In addition, the company expects to hire 150 manufacturing employees to staff the new facility.

Skydio soars to a $2.2 billion valuation after raising $230m Series E by Matt Burns originally published on TechCrunch

Skydio takes flight with new drone docking stations for easy remote deployment

Autonomous drones have a tremendous amount of potentially valuable use cases, but even if the drones have the smarts to go and do their jobs by themselves they need to come home to base to recharge. Skydio today announced a new series of docks that represents the next step in the company’s journey toward deploy-anywhere autonomous flying worker bees.

The company claims that its freshly launched Dock and Dock Lite are deserving of a swarm of superlatives, describing them as the “smallest, lightest, and smartest cloud-connected base stations for drones available on the market today.” The dock solutions are designed to give the company’s customers the power to run site inspections as well as monitoring, mapping and situational awareness tasks from anywhere in the world at any time. Relying on its new Remote Ops software, the AI models to keep the drones on task, the systems can operate both indoors and outdoors.

The selling point is obvious; skilled, licensed drone operators that are able to operate beyond line-of-sight are expensive. Being able to remote-control them rather than having to bring them on-site is very appealing. Skydio drones housed in Dock and Dock Lite can fly with a single off-site operator, or autonomously.

The new Skydio Dock. Image Credits: Skydio.

“The concept of remotely operated drones is incredibly compelling,” said Adam Bry, CEO of Skydio in a press statement. “It has attracted a gaggle of activity from startups and established manual drone companies, but it’s never going to work the way customers want — let alone scale to address real-world applications solving the needs of today — unless you can trust the drone to fly itself. And making drones smart enough to fly themselves is our core focus.”

The gaggle of startups Bry is referring to might include Matternet and Airobotics, which both raised significant funds and started deploying autonomous drone solutions over the last few years.

“Skydio Dock and Skydio Dock Lite, combined with our Remote Ops software, deliver autonomous capabilities for our customers, whether they are monitoring their warehouses, inspecting a security perimeter, or assessing infrastructure following a natural disaster — finally realizing the promise of efficient, scaleable remote operations,” says Bry.

Skydio’s new Remote Ops UI. Image Credit: Skydio

Deploying drones in compliance with the FAA isn’t trivial, and it’s encouraging to see that Skydio has a regulatory team to help its customers make the case for remote operations, obtaining approvals and the necessary blessings from the aviation regulators.

Skydio takes flight with new drone docking stations for easy remote deployment by Haje Jan Kamps originally published on TechCrunch

Robotics scene continues to be bullish, but layoffs are looming

This startup season is filled with goals of profitability, promises of higher margins and whispers about pivoting toward sustainability. So when it comes to robotics, a capital-intensive sector that has a longer sales time horizon and loads of infrastructure hurdles, tensions feel inevitable.

Or at least, you’d think. Crunchbase data shows that, despite a creaky market, venture funding for robotics startups remains strong. It’s a dissonance worth exploring, so that’s exactly what we did at TC Sessions: Robotics 2022 with investors Kelly Chen, partner at DCVC, Bruce Leak, founder of Playground Global and Helen H. Liang, founder of FoundersX Ventures. The trio of investors spoke about how the ambitious sector is surpassing some of the downturn’s harshest symptoms.

The answer includes a shift in investment strategy and Amazon.

No more moody robotic arms, please

Lumos wants to build an app store for the enterprise

Lumos, a startup that wants to provide an end-to-end solution for enterprises to manage all of the SaaS apps their employees use, is coming out of stealth today. The company plans to take on the SaaS management market by combining security features like role-based access control that IT departments need with the self-service capabilities that employees want and the spending reports (and ability to shut down unused accounts) that the finance department needs.

Lumos also today announced that it has raised a total of over $30 million from the likes of Andreesen Horowitz, Neo, Lachy Groom, Google Cloud CISO Phil Venables, OpenAI CTO Greg Brockman and others. 

At its core, Lumos replaces IT tickets with a self-service portal for employees. The team argues that as enterprises increasingly rely on SaaS applications, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for businesses to manage them. Often, this means an added bureaucratic layer of IT tickets to gain access to a service and additional costs for SaaS licenses for users who may not even be using a service or who may have left the company — all while it’s almost impossible for IT and security teams to keep up with the inevitable rise of shadow IT as employees try to route around these systems.

The promise of Lumos is that it can provide access controls but also provide a self-service portal to employees and automatically recognize when a user stops using a SaaS tool, for example, and then de-provision those accounts to save on licensing cost.

Image Credits: Lumos

“As the world has shifted from ‘bring your own device’ to ‘bring your own app’ and now ‘bring your own office,’ the challenge of shadow IT has only continued to compound. We’re very excited to partner with the Lumos team as they build the tool that can bring light to this darkness,” said Peter Levine, a general partner at Andreesen Horowitz.

As Lumos co-founder Andrej Safundzic told me, the idea for Lumos was born out of a privacy-and ethics-focused class he and his co-founder Leo Mehr took at Stanford (with Alan Flores-Lopez rounding out the co-founding team shortly after). That class, he said, made him realize how consumers may have password managers to secure their accounts but no easy way to manage the user accounts they likely have across hundreds of services.

“Then I looked at my phone — and my phone was beautiful, right? I have everything in my home screen,” Safundzic said. “I can delete what I want. I can go to settings and disable location sharing for Facebook. The App Store on Apple made this such a beautiful integrated platform. But if you look at the web, you have 100 websites, Figma, Airtable, Smartsheet — everything. So we just said: hey, let’s create that app store for the web.”

Image Credits: Lumos

That’s still the long-term goal today, but to get started, the team decided to focus on companies because, Safundzic frankly admitted, that’s an easier business model.

Since most services have open APIs to allow Lumos to create and delete accounts, the team didn’t even need to build a partnership team to support get started. The service integrates with existing IT systems, so tickets are still created to ensure everything is logged, but Lumos then orchestrates everything in the background. It supports services like Okta, OneLogin, Google and Azure AD for identify and access management and easy account provisioning for services like Zoom, Salesforce, AWS and Datadog. Like any modern service that focuses on workflows, it also integrates with Slack (with Teams support coming soon).

With Torii, BetterCloud, Intello and others, there are obviously quite a few SaaS management services on the market already. This is, after all, a massive problem for businesses. But the Lumos team argues that these are not end-to-end solutions and don’t offer all of the compliance, self-service and automation features its tool offers.

It’s worth noting that Safundzic has a bit of previous startup experience. Before co-founding Lumos, Safundzic built Tech4Germany, a GovTech startup that was acquired by the German Federal Chancellery.

Today, Lumos already has over 30 employees. Current users include the likes of BuzzFeed, Dialpad, Mixpanel, Skydio and Vox Media.

Skydio debuts updated $1099 self-flying drone with new bells and whistles

Skydio’s self-flying drone is getting a host of new software, hardware and services updates to ring in the new year.

The Bay Areas-based drone company is revamping their flagship drone with a number of features designed around usability, along with a major software update focused on bringing more control to users without forcing them to take manual control of the drone. The team is also delivering a new service plan called Skydio Care designed to give drone owners a protection plan that supplements their existing warranty but allows for rapid replacement of accidentally damaged devices.

Over the past several years, Skydio has been in an interesting position as a young American drone company with both consumer and enterprise clients. The startups has raised more than $340 million from top venture capitalists on the promise it can take drones mainstream with AI-aided controls that simplify user onboarding.

Its latest device — an updated version of its Skydio 2 drone called the Skydio 2+ — aims to serve both customers. The big update here increased flight range thanks to 5Ghz Wifi radio and two pop-up antennas which extend maximum range from 3.5 km to 6 km. The 2+ also sports a higher-density battery pack which adds a few minutes to its maximum flight time, now 27 minutes.

As has always been the case, the star of this drone is its computer vision-aided intelligence which allows the drone to pilot itself using a series of onboard cameras. The company is expanding its ambitions with a new software feature called KeyFrame, which will be available for both the Skydio 2+ and original Skydio 2.

The AI-powered feature allows for more cinematic capture by giving the user the power to define the individual shots they want to capture with the device’s app but then allowing the Skydio drone to handle the trouble of moving between those shots while creating a sweeping video that nails all of the key points of interest.

The software feature is one of the most powerful yet to come to the device and may help onboard enterprise clients who are still skittish to play around with the self-flying drones software. Skydio has another effort to entice the nervous: a new service plan called Skydio Plus which brings flat rate accidental damage repair to the device. Users will be able to choose 1-year or 2-year support plans for $149 and $249 respectively which allow users to replace broken or lost drones for flat rates. The first replacement of a damaged drone will cost just $150 for subscribers while a lost drone will require users to pay up $550 to replace it under the extended warranty plan.

The Skydio 2+, which starts at $1,099 for a basic package and taps out at $2,169 for a Pro Kit is available for order now.


Playbyte’s new app aims to become the ‘TikTok for games’

A startup called Playbyte wants to become the TikTok for games. The company’s newly launched iOS app offers tools that allow users to make and share simple games on their phone, as well as a vertically scrollable, fullscreen feed where you can play the games created by others. Also like TikTok, the feed becomes more personalized over time to serve up more of the kinds of games you like to play.

While typically, game creation involves some aspect of coding, Playbyte’s games are created using simple building blocks, emoji and even images from your Camera Roll on your iPhone. The idea is to make building games just another form of self-expression, rather than some introductory, educational experience that’s trying to teach users the basics of coding.

At its core, Playbyte’s game creation is powered by its lightweight 2D game engine built on web frameworks, which lets users create games that can be quickly loaded and played even on slow connections and older devices. After you play a game, you can like and comment using buttons on the right-side of the screen, which also greatly resembles the TikTok look-and-feel. Over time, Playbyte’s feed shows you more of the games you enjoyed as the app leverages its understanding of in-game imagery, tags and descriptions, and other engagement analytics to serve up more games it believes you’ll find compelling.

At launch, users have already made a variety of games using Playbyte’s tools — including simulators, tower defense games, combat challenges, obbys, murder mystery games, and more.

According to Playbyte founder and CEO Kyle Russell — previously of Skydio, Andreessen Horowitz, and (disclosure!) TechCrunch — Playbyte is meant to be a social media app, not just a games app.

“We have this model in our minds for what is required to build a new social media platform,” he says.

What Twitter did for text, Instagram did for photos and TikTok did for video was to combine a constraint with a personalized feed, Russell explains. “Typically. [they started] with a focus on making these experiences really brief…So a short, constrained format and dedicated tools that set you up for success to work within that constrained format,” he adds.

Similarly, Playbyte games have their own set of limitations. In addition to their simplistic nature, the games are limited to five scenes. Thanks to this constraint, a format has emerged where people are making games that have an intro screen where you hit “play,” a story intro, a challenging gameplay section, and then a story outro.

In addition to its easy-to-use game building tools, Playbyte also allows game assets to be reused by other game creators. That means if someone who has more expertise makes a game asset using custom logic or which pieced together multiple components, the rest of the user base can benefit from that work.

“Basically, we want to make it really easy for people who aren’t as ambitious to still feel like productive, creative game makers,” says Russell. “The key to that is going to be if you have an idea — like an image of a game in your mind — you should be able to very quickly search for new assets or piece together other ones you’ve previously saved. And then just drop them in and mix-and-match — almost like Legos — and construct something that’s 90% of what you imagined, without any further configuration on your part,” he says.

In time, Playbyte plans to monetize its feed with brand advertising, perhaps by allowing creators to drop sponsored assets into their games, for instance. It also wants to establish some sort of patronage model at a later point. This could involve either subscriptions or even NFTs of the games, but this would be further down the road.

The startup had originally began as a web app in 2019, but at the end of last year, the team scrapped that plan and rewrote everything as a native iOS app with its own game engine. That app launched on the App Store this week, after previously maxing out TestFlight’s cap of 10,000 users.

Currently, it’s finding traction with younger teenagers who are active on TikTok and other collaborative games, like Roblox, Minecraft, or Fortnite.

“These are young people who feel inspired to build their own games but have been intimidated by the need to learn to code or use other advanced tools, or who simply don’t have a computer at home that would let them access those tools,” notes Russell.

Playbyte is backed by $4 million in pre-seed and seed funding from investors including FirstMark (Rick Heitzmann), Ludlow Ventures (Jonathon Triest and Blake Robbins), Dream Machine (former Editor-in-Chief at TechCrunch, Alexia Bonatsos), and angels such as Fred Ehrsam, co-founder of Coinbase; Nate Mitchell, co-founder of Oculus; Ashita Achuthan, previously of Twitter; and others.

The app is a free download on the App Store.

Equity Monday: More venture money for Europe, and public companies blast off

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

This is Equity Monday, our weekly kickoff that tracks the latest private market news, talks about the coming week, digs into some recent funding rounds and mulls over a larger theme or narrative from the private markets. You can follow the show on Twitter here and myself here — and be sure to check out our most recent Friday episode, which featured news on Finix and Coinbase and Reddit, among others.

(Also don’t forget that Equity is growing! And TechCrunch events are about to kick off and kick some butt.)

Here’s what we got into this fine Monday morning:

Equity drops every Monday at 7:00 a.m. PST, Wednesday, and Friday at 6:00 AM PST, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts!

Early Stage is the premiere ‘how-to’ event for startup entrepreneurs and investors. You’ll hear first-hand how some of the most successful founders and VCs build their businesses, raise money and manage their portfolios. We’ll cover every aspect of company-building: Fundraising, recruiting, sales, legal, PR, marketing and brand building. Each session also has audience participation built-in – there’s ample time included in each for audience questions and discussion.

Autonomous drone maker Skydio raises $170M led by Andreessen Horowitz

Skydio has raised $170 million in a Series D funding round led by Andreessen Horowitz’s Growth Fund. That pushes it into unicorn territory, with $340 million in total funding and a post-money valuation north of $1 billion. Skydio’s fresh capital comes on the heels of its expansion last year into the enterprise market, and it intends to use the considerable pile of cash to help it expand globally and accelerate product development.

In July of last year, Skydio announced its $100 million Series C financing, and also debuted the X2, its first dedicated enterprise drone. The company also launched a suite of software for commercial and enterprise customers, its first departure from the consumer drone market where it had been focused prior to that raise since its founding in 2014.

Skydio’s debut drone, the R1, received a lot of accolades and praise for its autonomous capabilities. Unlike other consumer drones at the time, including from recreational drone maker DJI, the R1 could track a target and film them while avoiding obstacles without any human intervention required. Skydio then released the Skydio 2 in 2019, its second drone, cutting off more than half the price while improving on it its autonomous tracking and video capabilities.

Late last year, Skydio brought on additional senior talent to help it address enterprise and government customers, including a software development lead who had experience at Tesla and 3D printing company Carbon. Skydio also hired two Samsara executives at the same time to work on product and engineering. Samsara provides a platform for managing cloud-based fleet operations for large enterprises.

The applications of Skydio’s technology for commercial, public sector and enterprise organizations are many and varied. Already, the company works with public utilities, fire departments, construction firms and more to do work including remote inspection, emergency response, urban planning and more. Skydio’s U.S. pedigree also puts it in prime position to capitalize on the growing interest in applications from the defense sector.

a16z previously led Skydio’s Series A round. Other investors who participated in this Series D include Lines Capital, Next47, IVP and UP.Partners.

Autonomous drone startup Skydio taps Tesla, Samsara veterans in enterprise push

Autonomous drone company Skydio has hired three executives in product and engineering following its recent $100 million Series C funding round as part of the company’s strategy to expand beyond consumer applications and into the enterprise and public sector markets.

The hires include Roy Goldman, who was the director of software development at Tesla for five years and most recently held a similarly senior position at Carbon. Goldman has been hired to head up Skydio’s product management.

The company also hired Ryan Reading, who previously worked at Samsara where he has been vice president of engineering and more recently general manager of fleet safety, is now head of software engineering. Mike Ross, who led the he led the telematics product group at Samsara, was hired as senior director of product management.

The company said Thursday that the trio will “play critical roles in realizing the company’s vision for the first-of-its-kind integrated enterprise autonomy stack.”

Skydio CEO Adam Bry noted in a blog post that their track record in delivering enterprise products with cloud-connected hardware will be “key” for the company.

Skydio raised $100 million earlier this year to fund its next phase of product development for the enterprise, public sector and defense markets.

Skydio initially focused on consumer drones, launching two since its founding in 2014. Both models of consumer drones use artificial intelligence technology to fly without a human operator. The autonomous system is able to track objects and people, while simultaneously avoiding potential collisions with objects, including trees, power lines and other obstacles.

The company announced this summer a new X2 drone platform designed for enterprise use. Skydio previously said that the X2 drone, which includes onboard 360-degree superzoom camera, a FLIR 320×256 resolution thermal imaging camera, a battery life of 35 minutes of flying time and a maximum range of 6.2 miles, will ship in fourth quarter of this year.

Skydio partners with EagleView for autonomous residential roof inspections via drone

Skydio only just recently announced its expansion into the enterprise and commercial market with hardware and software tools for its autonomous drone technology, and now it’s taking the lid off a brand new big partnership with one commercial partner. Skydio will work with EagleView to deploy automated residential roof inspection using Skydio drones, with service initially provide via EagleView’s Assess product, launching first in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area of Texas.

The plan is to expand coverage to additional metro areas starting next year, and then broaden to rural customers as well. The partners will use AI-based analysis, paired with Skydio’s high-resolution, precision imaging to provide roofing status information to insurance companies, claims adjustment companies and government agencies, providing a new level of quality and accuracy for property inspections that don’t even require an in-person roof inspection component.

Skydio announced its enterprise product expansion in July, alongside a new $100 million funding round. The startup, which has already delivered two generations of its groundbreaking fully autonomous consumer drone, also debuted the X2, a commercial drone that includes additional features like a thermal imaging camera. It’s also offering a suite of “enterprise skills,” software features that can provide its partners with automated workflows and AI analysis and processing, including a House Scan feature for residential roof inspection, which is core to this new partnership.