How Frank Wang Took DJI From an Idea To Industry Leader
Wang built that robot. He also created the one that a protester used last month to land a bottle of radioactive waste on the roof of the Japanese prime minister’s office and developed the one a smuggler used to sneak drugs, a mobile phone and weapons into a prison courtyard outside of London in March. The idea of people using your product to break laws and social boundaries would give most CEOs nightmares, but the inconspicuous mastermind behind the world’s drone revolution just shakes it off.
“I don’t think it’s a big deal,” shrugs the 34-year-old founder of Dajiang Innovation Technology Co. (DJI), which accounts for 70% of the consumer drone market, according to Frost & Sullivan. His company spent the morning developing a software update it blasted out to all its drones, prohibiting them from flying inside a 15.5-mile-radius centered on downtown Washington, D.C. “It’s a benign thing.”
Here’s a video highlighting some facts about DJI and Frank Wang. Warning: turn your speakers to low-medium, before clicking play (unless you’re really into EDM)!
Or maybe it only looks that way to Wang because success has inured him to controversy. Last year DJI sold about 400,000 units–many of which were its signature Phantom model–and is on track to do more than $1 billion in sales this year, up from $500 million in 2014. Sources close to the company say DJI netted about $120 million in profit. Sales have either tripled or quadrupled every year between 2009 to 2014, and investors are betting that Wang can maintain that dominant position for years to come. In May the company closed a $75 million round of funding from Accel Partners, which sources say valued the company at about $8 billion. DJI is also currently raising a new round of funding at a $10 billion valuation and Wang, who owns about 45%, will be worth about $4.5 billion. DJI’s chairman and two early employees are expected to be billionaires from the deal. “DJI started the hobby unmanned aerial vehicle [UAV] market, and now everybody is trying to catch up,” says Frost & Sullivan analyst Michael Blades.