The battle is on. Things are heating up. And our final 6 have been chosen.
We met one-on-one with the 2021 OKGN Angel Summit’s finalists to hear their insights into the Summit and their pitch for the top spot.
Meet Mike Ball, founder of Beyond Aerospace in Kelowna. He’s developed software that enables users to securely communicate and control autonomous assets (like drones) from unprecedented distances. We recently caught up with Mike to learn more about his inspiration behind the idea, his experience as an entrepreneur and his plans to go the distance in the Summit.
What problem were you trying to solve when you started Beyond Aerospace?
If you’re flying drones—whether that’s looking at wildfires, tracking whale migrations, inspecting pipelines or flying around over the ocean to locate a person—you want to see what it’s seeing and know where it is. We want to create a future where you could be sitting in an office and flying your drone 500 miles away and be confident that it is going to do what you tell it to, be able to send information back and forth securely.
Why should your clients be interested in Beyond Aerospace?
What we do really well is security and the operational capability to fly beyond line of sight with a drone. We provide the connectivity and the software to control autonomous assets securely. The problems that we’re solving are new, emerging problems coming about as people change how they do things. They’re problems that people haven’t solved before. Our clients are primarily in public service, security and the military.
Can you tell us about the success you’ve already found?
We’ve got a couple of really solid launch partners so far, and really good revenue growth projections for both this year and next. The feedback we’re getting directly through contracts and our revenue growth is telling us that we’re on the right path. We’re going from working in the basement to having a viable, sustainable business.
What kind of expertise is your team bringing to Beyond Aerospace?
I’ve spent the last ten years in avionics, and aviation systems delivery. Basically, selling things that don’t exist, building them, integrating them, certifying them, making them work and maintaining them. Our other founder, Peter, has been running a similar company in San Diego for the military for the past 20 years. He’s bought satellites, drifted them over countries in inclined orbits, built antenna control modules and delivered his airborne video service for manned platforms. On the tech front, we’ve got some very capable and seasoned engineers. It’s a very entrepreneurial, brilliantly business-minded team.
How do you see your company growing?
We’re working on our airborne video, command-and-control-beyond-visual-line-of-sight software with a focus on drones. We want to see that be a commercial solution by the end of the calendar year so we can go to market, scale it and turn it into a recurring revenue stream. We’ve received a lot of interest for more logistics and data management items, so more on the security and data protection side. We’ll build that out and then grow that product, as well. The really cool thing about entering into contracts with the government is that, while it’s a long sales cycle, once you’re there, you’re in it for years. As long as you support your customers and keep them happy, you’ll have a long-term relationship.
If you were to win, what would you do with the investment?
Shoring up the product development, IP protection, and a little sprucing up of the messaging on our website so that stakeholders, investors and customers can better resonate with what we do. We have a set course right now, we just need to execute on it. The less I need to worry about where money is coming from so I can focus on getting the job done would be very helpful.
What has this experience taught you about the entrepreneurial journey?
Talking with investors is a skill set that not everybody has. You need to practice it. The OKGN Angel Summit is a safe forum to learn that skill because everyone wants to see you succeed. The investors we’ve been working with have been very candid and supportive, but also challenging me to do better. They want to help me refine and improve how I communicate and present Beyond Aerospace. The Summit is the best training course you can get for pitching to angel investors. Winning the competition isn’t the payoff, it’s the friends you make along the way.
What advice would you give to the participants of next year’s summit?
If you’re even halfway on the fence, just do it. It will force you to get out of your comfort zone, be on stage, and tell your story. What’s the worst that could happen? You go home and you do a little bit better next time. The downside is nonexistent while the upside is that you’re going to make connections in the Okanagan investment community, get your name out there, and a chance at a cheque. More importantly, if people like what you do, there will be other discussions on the side that are arguably more valuable than the competition itself. If you want to build a network and increase the number of people that know what you do, this is the cheapest marketing you can do.
For tickets, more information, and a complete list of the participating companies, please visit www.okgnangelsummit.com.
Meet the other finalists: