Jonathan Downey Airware

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Jonathan Downey's great presentation. Pure gold for any start up!

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  • Intro:I’ve been in this space for about 8 years, beginning with when I lead an undergraduate research project to build a small unmanned aircraft for an intercollegiate competitionThis early experience in my career set the stage for how I believe small autonomous aerial robots will be used over the next decade
  • Next stop, Boeing…Had the chance to work on hardware, helicopter flight controls, and autonomous mission softwareTime spent out in the desert in ground control stations, doing flight testing, acting as an outside observer… all at a public airport within the National Airspace SystemInvolved in software enhancements to deliver slung-load cargo autonomouslyBroke the world record for longest endurance helicopter flight, 18.7 hours
  • As much as I love developing UAS systems, I wanted a little break to flex my skills as a human pilotflew the DeHavilland Twin Otter as a commercial pilotflights from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon, sometimes 8 times a day, in challenging winds, ironically with no autopilot
  • (Started Airware because of a problem I saw that needed to be solved)
  • Getting the best peopleRaising money (from great investors)......Understanding what is most valuable to your customer (continually)
  • You’re going to worry about competitorsHow to draw the line between when to make changes to your company’s strategyMost startups fail because of internal reasons – far fewer bring a product to market and our out competedAt Airware, we have a vision, and it’s a large one, and so it has taken a while. There have been points along the way where we would could have been tempted to release something sooner because of competition, but we’ve focused on building the right thing.Always confirm you are building the right thing.
  • Need to say some specific examples here:Optimizing for a specific customer too soon (letting customers dictate development)Choosing a poor investor over a great oneBusiness deals w/ liability
  • This is what I think makes a good investor, based on my experience at Airware (make personal with examples, ideally with mistakes)
  • Eat your own dogfood
  • As a caveat, you can’t do this overnight, it’s a process. Rolling out OKRsYou have to figure out how this is going to work best for your company, this is a learning process, learn what will actually make your company better.The important thing is to take this advice and think about how this applies to your company.Start earlyIt will take longer to roll out than you thinkIf you think you really need it, you’re already lateIts much easier to start as 5 people than 25 or 50 or 100
  • Story or an anecdote about how small things started, what the kernel was, that grew into what Airware is today.Point is: pretty clueless to begin with, hopelessly naieve (thought we might someday need 10 people), but learned everything needed along the way, and still don’t know all of the things I’ll need to know to get us from What are the constants:- It will start smallYou won’t know everythingIt will Perspective now is SOOOO radically different than when we startedIt’s best if you don’t know all the ways you can fail - It wouldn’t be a start-up if you knew everything you were doingWe had a strong technical background, knew what the customer problem was (what was missing), not being able to live with the offense of what is missingWe knew what we wanted to build, but beyond that knew, we knew nothing of the first 10 lessons hereJust go for it
  • Jonathan Downey Airware

    1. 1. 10 things I wish I knew when starting a commercial drone startup May 9, 2014 Jonathan Downey Founder & CEO jdowney@airware.com
    2. 2. My Background
    3. 3. Airware Now • 47 people in San Francisco, CA • $15M raised from • Platform for Commercial Drones • Hardware • Software • Cloud • (Not Drones :)
    4. 4. 10 Things I Wish I Knew
    5. 5. Good ideas are plentiful. It’s all about execution.1
    6. 6. It’s about execution • We announced what we were building at AUVSI in 2011 • The rest of the stuff is the hard part • Getting the best people • Raising money • Developing a complex product • Learning the things you don’t know • Keeping your company aligned and organized • Understanding what is most valuable to your customer
    7. 7. Don’t worry too much (or too little) about competitors.2
    8. 8. Competitors • Most startups fail because of internal reasons • Don’t worry too much: • Some will be acquired • Others will focus on sales of existing products • Others will run out of money, be poorly managed, or hire too many B-players • Others will fail for all kinds of other reasons • In emerging high-growth industries, rising tides float all boats • Don’t worry too little: • Understand what your real competitive advantages are • Always confirm you’re building the right thing
    9. 9. Optimize for likelihood of success.3
    10. 10. Likelihood of success Startups often optimize for many other things: • Early revenue • Valuation Instead, optimize for likelihood of success in all things: • Who you hire & how you compensate them • Who you sell to & when • When you release your product • Where you are locate your company
    11. 11. Investors are not all equal. And some help is better than money can buy!4
    12. 12. Investors What makes a great investor: • Operational experience • Experience failing • Resources beyond just money • Helps you see what’s down the road and plan for it • Helps you be the best CEO possible
    13. 13. Start by doing things that don’t scale.5
    14. 14. At first, don’t scale • Work very closely with early Beta customers • You get better feedback • You can make your product better • They’ll love you for it and be advocates
    15. 15. Not all customers are equal.6
    16. 16. Not all customers are equal • How to pick early customers • Don’t go with the biggest customer, the 2nd, 3rd, or 4th largest will be more motivated to find any way they can be better • Focus on how much you can learn by working with them, not on potential revenue • Work with a company who is more interested in what you will have in a year than in what you have now • Focus on companies who need you the most • Geographic proximity is good (oops)
    17. 17. Find opportunities to be your own customer.7
    18. 18. Learn by being your own customer • Benefits of this: • Very rapid product feedback • You’ll find bugs before a real customer • You’ll learn more about your customer’s needs • Ol Pejeta Conservancy • Led to rapid improvements in our software and the demonstration of sophisticated capabilities • Rotating employees into flight test schedule
    19. 19. Hiring is a great team is really tough.8
    20. 20. 0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40 45 50 May-11 Aug-11 Nov-11 Feb-12 May-12 Aug-12 Nov-12 Feb-13 May-13 Aug-13 Nov-13 Feb-14 Full-time employees at Airware
    21. 21. What you need to learn about hiring • Knowing when to hire • Have someone do the job of the missing role, make them the hiring manager • Knowing who to hire • Know your own weaknesses, complement the • Hire people who can hire more people • Finding great people • Deciding between functional expertise, domain expertise, and passion • Treat hiring as a product • Putting someone in charge of it • Continuously improve it • Treat it with the same priority and enthusiasm
    22. 22. Hiring is just the start of building a great team.9
    23. 23. Hiring is just the start Core Values • Help align your organization around hiring • Keep you moving in the same direction • Don’t wait to do this – core values are a must! OKRs • Align your team • Clarify priorities and goals Every company is different, learn what will make your company better and start early!
    24. 24. Productivity Hacks10
    25. 25. CEO Productivity Hacks • A great ATS - Greenhouse • Digital note taking - Livescribe • Email prioritization - Asana chrome plugin • Almost any process can start in Trello • Start your day early (Oops) 4 week period
    26. 26. A final lesson
    27. 27. You don’t need to know everything to start. • There are a few constants • It will start small • You won’t know everything • It will not go exactly as planned • When I started Airware: • Strong technical background • Knew what the customer problem was • Knew what we wanted to build to solve that problem • Hopelessly naive about what it would take • Still don’t know everything I’ll need to learn for 2014
    28. 28. Up Next for Airware
    29. 29. Up next for Airware • Exhibiting at AUVSI North America • New website and blog • More details about upcoming products • Still hiring for hardware, firmware, software, and web roles www.Airware.com
    30. 30. Questions?

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