As Autonomous Technology Transforms the Global Freight Sector, Natilus Attracts More Seed Investment from Starburst Ventures, Seraph Group, Gelt VC, Outpost Capital and Draper Associates
Large cargo-capacity drone poised to challenge incumbents on price and scale as it prepares for first flight test
RICHMOND, Calif., November 13, 2017-- Today Natilus, a manufacturer of large aircraft drones, announced it has closed a second round of seed funding with investment from Starburst Ventures, Seraph Group, Gelt VC, Outpost Capital and Draper Associates. The funds will go toward the company's aggressive scaling strategy, with the first Federal Aviation Administration-approved flight for its 30-foot prototype scheduled for late 2017, and a commercial market launch in 2020.
Just as the long-haul freight sector has made huge strides in efficiency gains and cost reduction due to technology innovation, the $15.5 trillion global freight market is poised for disruption as it strives to offer customers more cost-effective delivery solutions beyond the decades-old vessels and aircraft which serve as its primary sources of transport. Natilus has identified the sweet spot between sea and air freight in the international freight market, offering a large cargo-capacity UAV that challenges current incumbents on price and speed of commercial-scale freight delivery.
"Two years ago, Natilus gave its pitch for the first time at our Los Angeles selection committee, and that exposure led to its initial seed round," said François Chopard, Founder and CEO of Starburst Ventures. "Today 47% of Starburst's portfolio companies have now closed Series A rounds at an average of $10 million. We were pleased to provide the technical and business due diligence, and now investment, to take Natilus to the next level. That's the perfect demonstration of our investment strategy in action."
"Today's freight sector is limited to just two choices when it comes to meeting customer demand – an expensive 14-hour route by air or a slow-going 21-day ocean trip. Why haven't there been more options?" said Tuff Yen, Founder and President of Seraph Group. "Natilus's value proposition, the ability to provide cost-effective cargo container-sized air options, creates a far-reaching impact on cost of goods, logistics, finance and commerce."
Astral Aviation, a leading air freight provider in Africa, is "excited for Natilus's progress in developing large cargo drones for the industry. Astral is looking to incorporate aerial vehicles such as Natilus into their African network to complement their current schedule and improve cargo connectivity in Africa," said Sanjeev Gadhia, CEO of Astral Aviation.
Outpost Capital is a believer in globalization. "Over the last 10 years we've seen a stable increase in demand for cross-border air delivery. In China, the logistic industry has been developing rapidly domestically, and will be getting ready for global expansion – Natilus is positioned to do just that," said Ryan Wang, Founding Partner of Outpost Capital.
Natilus's large-scale drones will be comprised of carbon fiber composites while using existing turbofan and turboprop engines, scaling to a long-term vision of 950,000-pound airplanes carrying 120 tons over trans-Pacific routes. Its next vehicle, a 12,000-pound drone capable of carrying 2 tons over 1000 nautical miles, will feature retractable landing gear and will be capable of taking off and landing at local regional airports.
"The foundation of our thesis is to align and support the outliers that are pushing the boundaries in frontier tech, and we see Natilus as a first mover that is poised to impact global freight in a positive and meaningful way," said Jake Chapman, Partner at Gelt VC. "With a high caliber team out of Boeing, Airbus and the drone sector, Natilus's ability to dramatically reduce the cost and time of transporting cargo bodes well for the sector."
"Natilus is well positioned to be the leader in fast inexpensive delivery of goods," said Tim Draper, Founding Partner of Draper Associates. "It turns out that a self-flying vehicle can be more reliable and less expensive than one with a human in it."
"Natilus's partnerships with this incredible group of investors is an important milestone in our continued growth," said Aleksey Matyushev, CEO of Natilus. "The new round of financing will allow us to scale the team to finish design of our 12,000-pound e-commerce drone, while at the same time growing our flight-testing operation for our 2200-pound, 30-foot prototype."
Founded in 2014 by a group of aircraft designers and military drone specialists, Natilus Inc. is a manufacturer of large unmanned cargo aircraft which introduce a more cost-effective way to transport goods worldwide. Natilus is the next generation cargo carrier, a large cargo capacity UAV that can be operated at 50% the cost of a Boeing 777 freighter, with delivery capacity 120 tons over trans-Pacific routes. Visit us at www.natilus.co.
About Starburst Ventures and Accelerator
Starburst Ventures is a venture fund dedicated to aerospace startups. Leaning on its portfolio of accelerated startups and a network of more than a 1000 aerospace-focused startups, Starburst Ventures fuels the most promising startups with capital.
Starburst Accelerator, the global aerospace and aviation incubator, provides support to start-ups seeking to commercialize their activities in the aeronautics, defense and space markets. The program acts as a catalyst, linking early-stage companies to a wide network of strategic industry players and potential partners to accelerate the adoption of breakthrough innovations. Through its dedicated venture capital network, Starburst has offices in Los Angeles, Munich, Paris, Singapore, Montreal and San Francisco. Please visit us at www.starburst.aero.
About Seraph Group
Seraph Group is a super angel fund that consists of 300+ successful individuals who share a passion for investing and supporting entrepreneurs. Opportunists join Seraph for a managed and curated portfolio of 20+ companies, for the ability to co-invest on a deal-by-deal basis, and for the opportunity to work with entrepreneurs. Visit us at www.seraphgroup.net
About Gelt VC
Gelt Venture Capital is a seed stage venture fund focused on companies pushing the frontier of technology ever forward. At Gelt we are technology optimists and believe that new technology has, on average, fundamentally improved the lives of people. We invest in companies that will continue this great trend into the future, helping humanity solve some of its largest problems. We are particularly interested in companies working on robotics, automation, mobility, space, the future of food and the future of work. Visit us at www.geltvc.com.
About Draper Associates
Draper Associates, founded in 1985, is a seed-stage venture capital firm that encourages entrepreneurs to drive their businesses to greatness, to transform industries with new technologies, and to build platforms for extraordinary growth, jobs, and wealth creation. Visit us at www.draper.vc.
About Outpost Capital
Outpost Capital is the first Silicon Valley based venture capital fund that focuses on VR/AR and frontier technology, while having a strong presence in China. Outpost backs bold entrepreneurs who are willing to explore uncharted territory, and believe that rewards always come after great risk is taken. Entrepreneurs that we back believe in our prime thesis: "talk less and do more - survive together, thrive together". Please visit us at www.outpostvc.com.
About Astral Aerial Solutions
Astral Aviation has a strong presence in Africa and has been operating for more than 15 years. With its hub in Nairobi, Kenya. Astral has developed an intra-African network that encompasses 50 destinations with a varied fleet which includes the Fokker 27, DC9, B727, and B747F aircraft. Astral Aviation has been recognized for its network and stellar reputation by being awarded the "African All Cargo Carrier of the Year" for 4 years. Astral Aviation has embraced drone technology and is one of the first freight operators in the world to promote the use of large cargo and initiate testing and operation of these cargo drones to combat logistical challenges in Africa. Please visit us at www.astral-aerial.com.
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