Those Shark Tank panelists like their toys. Viewers know that when an entrepreneur comes in with a new gadget, like a square wheel, rocket skates or a tilting scooter, the sharks jump on stage to give it a try. Friday night the sharks come face to face with a tech investor’s — and gadget geek’s — dream: the next generation of drones. The entrepreneurs behind xCraft, which makes the X Plus One and the Phone Drone, will stand before the sharks in search of investment.
But it turns out that not too long ago, the guys from xCraft didn’t even have Shark Tank on their radar. As X Plus One inventor JD Claridge told Idaho television station KXLY, the show’s producers came to them. At the time, the X Plus One was making waves with a successful Kickstarter campaign.
“The producers of ‘Shark Tank’ actually saw us on Kickstarter and contacted us.”
For Claridge, an aerospace engineer and founder of a small Idaho company made up of only three people — himself, business partner Charles Manning and employee Alex Kaiser — going before the panel was not another day in the office, to say the least.
“It was a new experience for me for sure. Pitching the company to five billionaires on national television is kind of intimidating, but it was an exciting experience for sure.”
Of course, drones are not new. Amazon made news almost two years ago by announcing on 60 Minutes its plan to deliver packages using drones. There’s also a burgeoning industry of drone photography, capturing angles and hidden places previously inaccessible using traditional methods.
But drones are typically slow and have a limited range. The classic drone is a “quadcopter,” with four leg-like propellers. The X Plus One has an upward facing wing. That means it can reach speeds of 60 mph. It can easily transition from “hover” to “fly forward” mode. Best news for budding filmmakers and photographers: they can affix a GoPro or other type of camera.
The X Plus One proved popular on Kickstarter, raising $143,000 on a goal of $50,000. That success, paired with the demonstrably innovative design of the X Plus One, may be enough to get the company a Shark Tank investment. Viewers can expect some questions about whether the technology is patented.
So far the X Plus One is available on the xCraft website at three price points: Platinum ($2,199), Ready to Fly ($1,699), and Build Your Own ($1,549). That might seem outrageous for a casual purchase, but perfectly reasonable for consumers who really love their drones.
The company is also re-launching its Kickstarter campaign for the Phone Drone, which allows you to put your smartphone into flight in a drone body — and subsequently take video and pictures. Yahoo Tech reported on the Phone Drone back in May during the product’s first Kickstarter campaign. Yahoo noted that the technology of the Phone Drone is actually in the smartphone — including its navigation and sensors. For that reason, the Phone Drone is a lot cheaper than a full drone model, with an expected retail cost of $250.
Manning told Venture Beat that the Phone Drone technology means it’s easy to link up with Android and iOS apps. They’ve done aerial flight with Periscope live streaming.
Manning revealed that the xCraft Shark Tank experience wasn’t a cake walk, even though the producers contacted the company.
“We did have to go through a variety of hoops to interview prior to being selected for filming.”
Shark Tank viewers will see Friday night whether they walk away with a deal. The show airs 9 p.m. on ABC.
[Main image xCraft/Shark Tank via Venture Beat]