Drone accelerator Genius NY looking to invest in drone startups

Genius NY, a drone-focused business accelerator with nearly $3 million to invest, is looking for its second-round of startups to fund.

The accelerator is accepting applications between now and Oct. 1, and it will choose six startups to invest in.

This year, Genius NY is especially focused on investing in women-owned drone startups.

“Last year, out of the 250 applications, only two were women-owned businesses,” said Director of Genius NY Jon Parry. “We felt like it wasn’t a problem in the selection process — it was in the application process. We would love to have diversity on our teams.”

Women have historically been absent from executive teams at the major drone companies — and that could be a problem. Consumers have complained that FPV goggles are too big and slide off their heads — likely because smaller people haven’t been involved in the design process. Many drone companies have assumed women wouldn’t be interested in their products and ignored them in their marketing efforts, leading to a major loss in potential sales.

Kara Alheim, GENIUS NY Content and Marketing Manager flies a drone with GENIUS NY
finalist SkyOp, a drone training company who won $250,000 from the program. Applications for GENIUS NY 2.0 are open until October 1, 2017. Courtesy Genius NY

Women account for $4.3 trillion of total U.S. consumer spending of $5.9 trillion, according to The Atlantic, making women the largest single economic force not just in the United States, but in the world.

And Genius NY hopes their investments will pay off.

The accelerator is looking to invest in either hardware or software startups, but Parry predicts that software is the future.

“The largest growth potential is in the software and data analytics,” he said. “There’s so much to be done on the regulatory side of things, with a lot being centered around UTM (unmanned traffic management). Hardware is a harder play since there are more competitors that can be copied. But as people capture more and more data and cameras have higher resolution, there is such a need for data analytics.”

That’s not to say hardware is impossible to do in the drone industry. Last year, Genius NY invested in Ascent AeroSystems, which makes the uniquely shaped cylindrical ‘Sprite’ drone.

Another one of Genius NY’s past investments,  Automodality, which does close-up autonomous drone navigation, has already signed a 2-year development contract with one of the leading railroad companies in the U.S.

They’ve gotten real development dollars,” Parry said. “They’ve really done a lot, partly due to the investment from our program.”

Applications for Genius NY are currently being accepted from entrepreneurs and early-stage businesses focused on unmanned systems, hardware, software and analytics through October 1, 2017.

Parry said startups at any stage are welcome to enter.

“We’re open to all stages of businesses, whether it’s literally just an idea or a concept, or it’s a company that has a team and sales,” he said. “Our investments in 2017 are proof of that. Some were more advanced. You could be on the technical side or on the entrepreneurial side. That’s really what our accelerator helps achieve.”

Applications will be evaluated by a panel of judges and 12 semi-finalists will be selected to present demos and pitches this fall. Six companies will then enter an in-residence accelerator at CenterState CEO’s Tech Garden. Participants are required to operate their business in Central New York for one year during the competition.

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