Drone manufacturer XCraft thriving after Shark Tank appearance

By Patrick C. Miller | December 31, 2015

XCraft is proving that if you build a better drone, the world will beat a path to your door.

Based in Sandpoint, Idaho, XCraft’s fall appearance on the ABC TV show “Shark Tank” and two successful Kickstarter campaigns mean the startup company has plenty on its plate. JD Claridge, an aerospace designer who started the company with Charles Manning, his business mentor, said the public exposure has been good for the startup company.

“As far as what we’ve seen from the show, it’s put us out in a huge public spotlight with 10 million viewers or something like that,” Claridge said. The show featuring XCraft is scheduled to rerun this Friday, New Year’s Day, at 8 p.m. EST on ABC. 

Claridge said XCraft is busy filling orders for its unique XPlusOne—a drone that can hover like a quadcopter and fly like a fixed-wing aircraft—that he and Manning demonstrated on Shark Tank. In addition, they’re ramping up for the manufacture and retail distribution of the company’s PhoneDrone—a product that turns a smartphone into a personal UAS that can be used for a wide variety of applications.

On top of that, Claridge told UAS Magazine that XCraft is working on three additional projects, one of which is developing a version of the XPlusOne with greater range and a larger payload that’s more suitable for commercial purposes. They’re also developing UAS with greater computing power for onboard data processing and the ability to fly autonomous missions.

Kickstarter, which enables entrepreneurs to conduct online funding campaigns for their business ideas, gave XCraft its first boost. Claridge said their goal was to raise $40,000 to fund the XPlusOne, but they exceeded that by $100,000. That success caught the attention of the Shark Tank producers who asked XCraft to submit an application because there had never been a drone company on the show.

In season 7, episode 5 of the show that first aired last October, all five business “sharks” that included Mark Cuban, Daymond John, Kevin O'Leary, Lori Greiner and Robert Herjavec formed a syndicate. They offered XCraft $1.5 million for a 25 percent stake in the company and a $6 million valuation, far more than Claridge and Manning expected.

“It’s just a huge deal that a small company can get on Shark Tank,” Claridge said. “We’ve had a lot of orders, but that’s also created some growing pains. We’ve now added on to our stack of backorders.”

To maintain quality control, Claridge said the XPlusOne is manufactured in the U.S. and every drone is put through a rigorous test process as if comes off the production line.

“We want to make sure that everything works perfectly,” he explained. “It’s a little slower, but we think it’s the right path in the long run.” 

XCraft’s first Kickstarter campaign for the PhoneDrone fell far short of its goal. But after the Shark Tank appearance, the company ran a second campaign with a set goal of $100,000. It raised $325,000, according to Claridge, who added that there was no way to measure the impact of the company’s Shark Tank appearance.

“I don’t think that 10 million viewers are a bad thing,” he said. “For it to go as well as it went on Shark Tank, people see that and they’re obviously encouraged by the prospects of the company. There’s no doubt about it that it helped.”

For now, Claridge said XCraft’s top two priorities are fulfilling the orders it received from Kickstarter and through its website for the XPlusOne and getting the PhoneDrone ready for commercial sales.

 

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