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How Zipline Became a $1.2 Billion Drone Company

Image courtesy of Zipline

Last week, drone delivery service Zipline announced $190 million in new financing, bringing the company’s valuation to $1.2 billion dollars.  In the world of commercial drones – or any startup – that’s a big number, and a big achievement.  With drone delivery not yet fully implemented in most countries, how did Zipline make it?

Whenever Zipline comes up in conversation, I remember an interview I did with co-founder Keenan Wyrobek back in 2016 (Zipline had received $25 million in funding then and was launching their first program in Rwanda).  In that conversation, Wyrobek explained that the co-founders of Zipline didn’t start out as a drone company.  They started out to solve a problem.

“Our contract with Rwanda doesn’t even mention drones,” Wyrobek told me. “We’re couriers – drones were just the best way to solve the logistical problem of delivering supplies in that environment.”   Far from being a “solution in search of a problem,” as the saying goes, Zipline developed a solution around solving a critical problem for developing countries without an extensive ground-based transportation infrastructure.

It’s a significant point.  Governments who understand they are saving lives will adjust regulations to accommodate new technologies.  It’s in part the critical nature of the mission they perform that has allowed Zipline to grow so rapidly.

Since 2016, the company has expanded their reach and honed their offering.  They’ve done many things right – including developing centers of operation which are entirely staffed by local professionals and developing a delivery system that accomodates fragile payload without needing to land and negotiate the problem of the last 50 feet.  The proof is featured on the front page of their website – Zipline drones have completed more than 14,000 lifesaving deliveries.

Zipline’s achievements are worthy of note – and good for the drone industry as a whole.  14,000 deliveries are 14,000 flights proving that drone delivery can be done safely and efficiently: and that’s a message that can spread across continents.

The following is a Zipline press release.


Will Help Support Zipline’s Global Expansion

Company Now Valued At Over A Billion Dollars

HALF MOON BAY, CA Friday, May 17th—Today, Zipline, the world’s first and only national-scale drone delivery service, announced it has raised $190 million in new financing, which values the company at over 1 billion dollars. The new funds will support the global expansion of Zipline’s lifesaving service across Africa, South Asia, Southeast Asia and the Americas and position the company to serve 700 million people in the next five years.

“There is a growing feeling around the world that technology is not benefitting the vast majority of people,” said Zipline CEO Keller Rinaudo. “The old conventional wisdom has been that building a successful technology company requires exploiting people’s personal information or hijacking their attention. Zipline wants to establish a new model for success in Silicon Valley by showing the world that the right technology company with the right mission and the best team can help improve the lives of every person on the planet.”

About The New Funding

Zipline’s business is funded from three streams: both government and business customers pay for the use of Zipline’s instant delivery service; key philanthropic partners help to support the establishment of new distribution centers in low and middle-income markets; and venture capital investment supports scaling the company’s team and technology.

Zipline has raised a new round of financing in two phases over the last year to help support efforts to scale its team and technology across the globe. In the Spring of 2018, Zipline raised $70 million from Katalyst Ventures, Baillie Gifford, GV, Temasek, Bright Success Capital, Goldman Sachs, Oakhouse Partners, Toyota Tsusho Corporation and the Design to Improve Life Fund.

The company also raised $120 million in the Spring of 2019, which included additional investments by Baillie Gifford and a new investor, The Rise Fund, a global Impact fund managed by TPG. Ballie Gifford and The Rise Fund were joined by returning investors Temasek, GV and Katalyst Ventures. The new funding places Zipline’s valuation at over $1.2 billion.



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