New Heights and New Perspectives with Dronemates
In the years since drones became commercially available we’ve heard a lot of good things about them – they’re fun to use, capture amazing imagery, and can be our eyes at heights where it’s dangerous for a person to climb. We’ve also heard some troubling things, as people question whether drone flights are safe for aviation or respectful of privacy.
Fortunately, Dronemates is here to make the good better and leave the bad in the dust.
U of G alumni Evan Lavine and Nic Altobelli founded Dronemates to capitalize on their passions for the environment, geography, photography, and business and make sure that drone technology reaches its positive potential in Ontario. Lavine and Altobelli are trained in Unmanned Aerial Vehicle flight and they follow all of Transport Canada’s Aviation Regulations. That includes thirty pages of paperwork per flight and, sometimes, a month-long wait for government approval.
It’s a lot of work, but these entrepreneurs know that it is worth it. Drones are a powerful tool – making sure that they’re used responsibly and don’t become a nuisance or a hazard will help Dronemates and their clients unlock the technology’s potential.
To that end, Altobelli and Lavine apply their expertise across many sectors. Farmers, for example, can call on Dronemates to check for weeds and pests in the middle of large fields by filming or photographing their crops from the air. Tree planters can check on reforestation progress across huge distances. Real estate agents can offer prospective buyers an aerial view of the property. Film directors can capture sweeping views. Drone technology has virtually limitless applications – the sky is not the limit. Clearly, Dronemates is a great business idea.
But how did these entrepreneurs shape a winning plan into a viable corporation? That’s where the Hub came in.
Making it a reality
The Hub Incubator Program operates through the University of Guelph’s Centre for Business and Student Enterprise (CBaSE). The Hub offers participating companies up to $7500 in funding to grow the business, mentorship, office and meeting space, and workshops to guide and encourage entrepreneurs.
Altobelli and Lavine already had plenty of business expertise – Lavine spent two years as an accounting major before his love of geography led him to switch programs of study, while Altobelli earned a minor in Economics. Still, they knew that the Hub had a lot of training and inspiration to offer them. “We knew,” the Dronemates said, “the Hub could accelerate our progress and push us beyond our comfort zone, week-to-week.”
And they’re very glad they applied and were accepted. The seed funding, of course, has been a huge help as their fleet of drones expands to provide the best possible service to clients. But money is just a fraction of what the Hub has to offer. Mentors at the Hub helped Dronemates refine their branding and identify market segments they hadn’t thought to access. Since drones are a fairly new technology, the industry is changing all of the time – with support from the Hub, Lavine and Altobelli have developed strategies to learn a great deal from trial and error and from every pitch to a prospective client. Support from the Hub also emboldened Dronemates to incorporate quickly.
Dronemates will graduate from the Hub in a few weeks and they already have big plans. They look forward to expanding their network of clients over the year, especially by breaking into the media and agricultural sectors. They aspire to go national within five years. Within a decade, look for Dronemates as a key actor in diverse areas like environmental stewardship, climate change adaptation, filmmaking, and search-and-rescue.
Altobelli and Lavine know that breakthroughs happen when you leave your comfort zone, and that’s just what the Hub helped them do.
Do you have a great business idea? Are you ready to explore and collaborate to make it happen? If you’re interested in applying to the Hub, visit www.uoguelph.ca/cbase/thehub to learn more about the application process, or talk to John Lam, CBaSE’s Business Incubator Services Manager. See what you can do, and bring your business to life at the Hub Incubator!