Andreessen Horowitz-backed Skydio just hit unicorn status with its latest fundraising, as US dronemakers look to gain on a Chinese rival

Adam Bry, Co-founder and CEO of Skydio

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This week, Skydio became the first US-based dronemaker “unicorn” — valued at over $1 billion — but the company and its hot industry are no overnight successes.

“There was a lot of VC interest four to six years ago, which waned somewhat as the initial hype around drones dissipated,” Skydio cofounder and CEO Adam Bry told Insider. “And there were some high-profile failures of venture-backed drone companies.”

The company announced on Monday that it raised a $170 million Series D round led by venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz’s Growth Fund, bringing its total financing to date to more than $340 million. Andresseen, which also led Skydio’s Series A financing, was joined in this latest round by existing investors Linse Capital, Next47, and IVP — as well as a new investor, UP.Partners.

Bry told Insider that Andreessen Horowitz “moved quickly to step in and lead the Series D.”

As the Financial Times reported on Monday, Skydio’s funding announcement marks the first significant money-raising since the federal government placed China’s DJI, the global industry leader, on the so-called “Entity List” last December that bans US companies from supplying it with components. The move is expected boost the US drone space as it continues to evolve from its focus on consumer products to the business and government markets, the FT said. 

But Bry believes Skydio was already delivering a major advantage to its Chinese rival — autonomy. While DJI’s drones are manually operated, Skydio’s rely on autonomous technology. “There’s a high level of trend-driving from the increasing autonomy from drones,” Bry said. “It’s changing the status quo from a joystick to whole drones smart enough for themselves applied across different industries,” said Bry, pointing to possible future uses in public safety, logistics, law enforcement and the military.

Skydio’s drones are already used in a variety of industries. Last month, the company announced that the US Army would be using its Skydio X2D drone.

But Bry said the company’s drones will never be weaponized.

“We’re not going to put weapons on drones,” said Bry, “It’s information-gathering, seeing what’s on the other side of a building or a hill before you make another move.”

Other drone companies that are weaponized include Anduril, also backed by Andreessen Horowitz.

“Drones are a pretty powerful tool to keep people safe with more information to make more decisions,” Bry said.

Skydio also sell drones directly to consumers with products starting at $999.

With the new funding round, Skydio said it will “accelerate product development and global sales expansion to support the rapidly growing demand for its autonomous drone solutions.”

Bry and fellow Skydio co-founders Abraham Bachrach and Matt Donahoe initially met as grad students at MIT where they helped develop autonomous drone technology. The three then went on to work at Google’s Project Wing before founding Skydio in 2014.

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