Gadgets

Drone dream: This startup plans to bring cheap drone-based shipping to developing world

Above: Raptopoulos.

Image Credit: Jordan Novet/VentureBeat

Andreas Raptopoulos wants his startup, Matternet, to become the Apple of drones by selling well-designed interoperating hardware to millions and millions of people.

But the analogy isn’t completely apt. Rather than target the high-end market, Matternet initially intends to distribute drones and associated equipment to people in underdeveloped countries. With Matternet’s creations, people can overcome the lack of good roads to retrieve products from distribution centers.

Governmental regulation and production challenges stand in the way. So for now, Matternet is working with businesses and other organizations to test out its gear and demonstrate its reliability.

“Now we have all sorts of interesting things in the pipeline,” Raptopoulos, Matternet’s chief executive and one of its cofounders, told VentureBeat.

It used to be that he and his colleagues had to reach out to companies. No longer. Certain recent events — like the Amazon Prime Air drone project and Facebook’s plans to build drones for connecting more people to the Internet — have made drones a hot item.

Hence Raptopoulos’ participation in Silicon Valley’s enterprise-focused Alchemist Accelerator, from which Matternet graduates today after a six-month stint.

Investors will get a chance to connect with Raptopoulos after his presentation on stage at Alchemist’s demo day. But that doesn’t guarantee the company will maintain its state for long, given recent drone acquisitions from Facebook and Google. A multinational retailer or another kind of company keen on widening its reach could end up buying Matternet — which has been around since 2011, after being incubated at Singularity University.

For now, the company is trumpeting its ability to lower the cost of doing business globally.

“It’s going to be between one-fifth and one-tenth of the cost people pay today for last-mile delivery,” Raptopoulos said.

And, hey, Matternet’s prospects look promising because large tech companies have shown increased interest in hardware in general as of late. Facebook bought Oculus VR. Google bought Nest.

“We are beating my predictions for how quickly things would happen,” Raptopoulos said.


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