3D Robotics Inc., one of the better-funded, high-profile drone startups, is laying off an undisclosed number of its staff in a restructuring aimed at moving more quickly into the commercial market, due to heavy competition in the consumer drone market.
“DJI is doing great, it’s because they are moving so fast, it’s forcing the others to adapt,” 3DR co-founder and Chief Executive Chris Anderson told MarketWatch. “Some companies are adapting by leaving, and others are adapting by moving upstream to the enterprise, which was always our plan. And is it just accelerating right now.”
“I have learned a lot over the last year,” Anderson wrote in his email to the company. “It’s hard for me not to indulge my passion for the technology by engaging at the engineering level. But one of the things good founders learn is that their job is to hire people smarter than them and then give those people clear space to run.” Anderson added that at a certain point, his only product “should be the company itself.”
Hate it when bad things happen to good people. 3DR has been working to position themselves for their move to the enterprise space with their recently announced partnership with AutoDesk. But as we are about to find out about at the Drone Dealer Expo, selling to enterprise is a completely different thing than selling at retail.
In my opinion, 3DR lost the war for a number of reasons:
3DR’s roots in Mexico probably delayed moving manufacturing to China as quickly as they should have, which left them in the unenviable position of costing more and offering less.
3DR was dependent on GoPro for their camera – that left them with guppy vision. And a strategic partner that is going down fast.
3DR was no doubt distracted by being in the Bay Area, and also by their leadership role in OpenSource. Though I suspect that his contribution to the community is what Chris will be remembered for.
Take a look at that product shot. 3DR’s marketing has been stuck in a “Darth motorcycle” mode for way too long. And they are not very nimble. Which is kind of astounding when you think about what a PR genius Chris is. No one has had more or better ink in the whole industry but it just hasn’t moved product.
And finally let’s give credit where credit is due. DJI has consistently rocked it with better products, better cameras, lower prices and a much sharper focus on amazing footage (Eric Cheng anyone.) They became the de facto standard in somewhere between 12 and 18 months. And they are showing no signs of slowing down.