Flying high: Why Verizon’s acquisition of Skyward bodes well for all Portland startups, drone or otherwise

Sure, sure. Everyone is talking about the Verizon acquisition of Yahoo! But honestly? I’m more interested in an acquisition that may fly below the RADAR. (Buh dum buh… tiss!) You see, Verizon just made an acquisition that both bodes well for Portland—and for our future in the drone industry. Verizon has acquired Portland startup Skyward.

This should be especially interesting to our community for four specific reasons, in my opinion:

First off… As much as startups need capital, investors need exits. So this is a positive sign for continued investment activity here in town. And it doesn’t hurt that some familiar names were investors in the drone company, including Founders Co-op, Techstars Ventures, and Voyager Capital, the latter leading the seed round for Skyward and continuing its role as arguably the most active VC in the Portland area.

Voyager Capital’s Erik Benson, who led the seed round of funding for Skyward, said that Evans “deserves all of the credit” for building a successful startup in the emerging drone industry. “Skyward’s founders, employees and co-investors are all happy with Verizon and their leadership in the commercial drone industry globally,” Benson said in an email to GeekWire.

Second? In a day and age when we’re hearing about companies raising umpteen millions on ridiculous valuations, Skyward was able to build its business with less than $10 million in venture funding. Again, that’s no small sum of capital. But it’s not exorbitant by current industry standards, either. What’s more, raising less capital likely freed up executive leadership’s time to focus on building the actual business and creating real value—rather than spending that time trying to find more money from investors.

The third important point is the age of the company:

We started Skyward four years ago with a dream of bringing commercial drone operators the tools they need to safely access the sky. Now, people in over 40 countries rely on Skyward to power drone programs in industries like construction, industrial inspection, media, insurance, real estate, mining, precision agriculture, and more.

Why is that important? In a town that often sees a decade—or decades—between a company’s being founded and a successful exit, it’s a heartening to see that folks are building valuable businesses that have the opportunity to exit at this speed. It’s not exactly a trend, yet. But it’s something to monitor, for sure.

Finally, Oregon has been chasing this drone thing for a while. We were early to realize its potential. We have land and legislation that makes drone activities more viable. We have a rabid group of drone hobbyists. And we’ve got a small cluster of businesses being built around drones. Now, we have a big corporation with a Portland presence—Skyward gets to stay right here at home—in the drone space. That’s gotta be helpful too.

For additional coverage, see Recode, TechCrunch, The Oregonian, and Portland Business Journal.

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