- Offer clients business solutions driven by strong layer of AI and domain experts
- Aims for an IPO in 2022 and becoming the global leader in UAV market
IT was while on a trip to Tokyo in 2017, and having a meal at his favourite food kiosk that Kamarul Muhamed chanced upon the tagline of Yoshinoya, “Tasty, Low Priced and Quick”. “It struck me then that this was in essence our corporate philosophy as well though we substitute tasty with “better” besides adopting “faster” and “cheaper” as well,” says the cofounder and managing director of global UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) solutions provider, Aerodyne Ventures Sdn Bhd that announced on Monday that it had secured a US$3 million (RM12.3 million) pre-series B round from Japanese venture firm, Drone Fund.
Kamarul started the company in 2014 with his wife, Azita Azizan, injecting US$244,000 (RM1 million) as its startup capital.
While Kamarul acknowledges that it may seem counter-intuitive to be both cheaper and better, because there is always a premium attached to offering better technology, what Aerodyne focuses on today is to offer clients business solutions which are driven by a strong layer of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and subject matter experts in the various verticals it serves.
“20 months ago, our technology and innovation team was three strong. Today it is a 30-person team with the target of doubling it by the end of the year,” says Kamarul. He feels this has been the key to their ongoing success where instead of just delivering data to clients, “we use AI and deep learning to solve problems not solved before, for them.”
While it started out in 2014 offering the standard imaging services most drone companies do, via a DaaS (Drone as a Service) model, in 2016 Kamarul felt that this was not the path to take and hope to build a globally competitive company. Rather offering business solutions to client pain points was the path forward and upwards.
Helping it deliver on this solutions based value proposition to clients is an inhouse developed asset management platform specific to drone data. Kamarul could not use existing asset management platforms, “because they do not have sufficient nuances to take full advantage of the massive volumes of drone meta data that are heavy with video and visuals.”
What is has built instead, over a one year period, is a cloud based platform that goes beyond offering data processing and sharing (which most drone companies do) and which can be delivered through an app and iPad as well. “It is also integrated to their ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system, which allows us to offer clients a complete end to end, SaaS (Software as a Service) solution,” says Kamarul, adding “clients love it.”
His latest investor, Drone Fund of Japan loves it as well, describing Aerodyne as “a truly leading industry solution provider with DaaS and SaaS solutions that leverage the power of AI.”
What’s even more interesting for Aerodyne, and potentially paves the way for it to embed itself deeper with clients is a trend Kamarul first noticed seven months ago. “Clients were telling us that since we were offering this whole value chain and are able to detect issues faster and we are already on site (where sometimes the sites are in remote areas), ‘why don’t you just fix those issues for us?’” he shares.
Acknowledging that fixing power, water, oil & gas, buildings infrastructure is not within Aerodyne’s skill set, the company is going about acquiring the expertise in the quickest way possible, via M&A activities.
This approach makes sense for Kamarul because Aerodyne’s business model is about signing long term contracts with clients, not working on one-off jobs. “We become an extension of an enterprise client and we save them costs.”
It is this extension of its solution strategy in 2019 into a seventh pillar that Kamarul calls “Intervention and Rectification” that is exciting not just him but his upcoming Series B investor. The deal they are working on now, with a Japanese company, is to combine its expertise and provide total solutions to the market in Japan and to the world.
Having made its first M&A in Denmark in Feb 2018, Kamarul prefers to take at least a 60% stake in any M&A engaged in. From the funding raised and about to be raised from his Series B, he expects to close three M&A deals in 2019 which will give him entry into key markets this year.
Looking ahead, Kamarul wants Aerodyne to go for a listing in 2022, “by which time we want to be the global leader in our space.” It may sound like a tall order, but with its latest move to become an end to end service provider to customers, Kamarul is brimming with confidence. “It’s a tall order, I know, but you can dream, right?”
Helping him dream further and higher is a recent funding offer that he turned down from a Silicon Valley firm that he says would have accorded Aerodyne unicorn status as a billion dollar valuation startup.
“We turned it down partly because we felt we were not ready to take a large sum (and giving up a larger equity) when our accelerated growth days are still ahead of us. That and the fact that we had to relocate our HQ to the Silicon Valley and become known as a US company,” he says, determined that Aerodyne, when it achieves is goal of becoming the global leader in UAV space, will be identified as a Malaysian based global champion.