Interview With Vasily Lukashov & Yulia Druzhnikova
Describe your product or service:
“FIXAR develops the design and software of unmanned aerial vehicles. The company is most recognized by its flagship drone FIXAR 007, [which] has outperformed same class drones. The drone stands out with its patented design, in-house developed Autopilot, xGroundControl software, and BlackBox system. These features secure easy and safe autonomous aerial missions for mapping, surveying, utilities monitoring, infrastructure, oil and gas, agriculture, forestry, and many more industries. All features together make FIXAR missions up to 10 times more efficient than the alternative UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles).”
Describe your company values and mission:
“We create safety-driven UAV solutions while laying the groundwork for a tomorrow in which we share our sky with fully autonomous, versatile, and multipurpose commercial drones. Our values are to advocate safety culture, flexibility without complexity, enhance knowledge sharing within the commercial drone and UAV industry.”
How are you funded? I.e. type of funding, number of funding rounds, total funding amount.
“FIXAR has raised $2.6 million so far — the company has been backed by VC and angel investors.”
How big is your team? Tell us a little about them (I.e. co-founders, freelancers, etc.)
“There are currently 33 people in our team. Our team of experts share a passion for bringing innovative technologies and great results to our customers and partners. We’re driven by the idea that the best work is born from expertise, common values, and trust. Many team members see the drone world not only as a job to do — it is very common to see our coworkers participating in unmanned aerial aircraft competitions, taking on referee duties, and teaching youth how to build and fly drones.”
How did you come up with and validate your startup idea? Tell us the story!
“The drone operators and application industries signaled needs that were not filled by available solutions. Copter-type drones were limited by flight length and weather resistance, but fixed-wing drones required special equipment like a launcher to fly them. Therefore, FIXAR 007 was designed to combine the best features of both – the drone could take off and land vertically as a copter and hold the increased flight distance as fixed-wing solutions without additional launch devices. We also looked for easy software to operate it, so the drone comes with xGroundControl software and built-in autopilot that executes autonomous missions planned in our proprietary software.
Over the years of development and growth, we managed to create scalable technologies that enable us to extend the flight time and carry capacity of each next model. We are excited to announce our third-generation drone soon!”
How did you come up with your startup's name? Did you have other names you considered?
“FIXAR stands for ‘Fixed Angle Rotors,’ which is one of the key features of our first drone developed, and this feature hugely contributes to safe, robust, and reliable flights.”
Did you always want to start your own business? What made you want to become an entrepreneur?
“FIXAR is an example of a company where hobby and passion became a business. The founder of the company, Mr. Vasily Lukashov, has been working with unmanned solutions for a long time, using his engineering skills and knowledge of building UAVs to also teach youth about it. We could say that this organically transformed into building a value-added solution for users considering extensive experience and observations in the industry, also from the user point of view.”
Did you encounter any roadblocks when launching your startup? If so, what were they and what did you do to solve them?
“For a startup, it is always a challenge to arrange business tasks and not lose focus of your product, especially in the tech and innovation segment. The other challenge is fundraising and storytelling because you have to explain your solution and what it brings to the market and users. It is not always an easy task for a deep tech startup with heavy R&D parts, but we are glad that our investors see great potential in what we do.”
Who is your target market? How did you establish the right market for your startup?
“We currently have 45 partnerships around the globe to provide access to our solution. Currently, our main attention and activities are focused on Canada, USA, India, Middle East, Japan, Australia, and EU.”
How did you acquire your first 100 customers?
“FIXAR works intensively to offer exactly what customers are looking for. CustDev is what helps us to foresee the needs of our customers. Our early adopters became a great source of feedback to polish our product and drive sales. We try to look at our products from the customer and user side to make it serve the needs [and] to apply adjustments and improvements if necessary. And it is possible as we build full-stack solutions in-house.”
What are the key customer metrics / unit economics / KPIs you pay attention to to monitor the health of your business?
“We look at our business health from many perspectives to assure that in all fronts, it is well set. At the startup early stage, it is important to build strong relationships with customers as they are the first ones really using and experiencing your product. They share what is great and what could be polished more. We take that into account to improve. We are monitoring KPIs in all directions – R&D, FlightOps, Manufacturing, Marketing & Sales. We see that reliability and safety are one of the key aspects in our industry for business to work out.”
What's your favorite startup book and podcast?
“‘Start with Why,’ ‘Venture Deals,’ ‘The Lean Startup,’ ‘Founders’ Dilemmas’
‘This Week in Startups’ and drone-related podcasts.”
What is something that surprised you about entrepreneurship?
“You will never be ready for it. There is no MBA class or training that can make you ready for entrepreneurship. It’s a rollercoaster, and it’s a space with many unknowns where every moment you make a decision to succeed and where no one knows which decision is a good one. But, it’s fun!”
How do you achieve work/life balance as a founder?
“Spoiler – there is no work/life balance! Everyone just needs to find something to be passionate about. We are lucky to have a team of enthusiasts that share our values and vision. They all go the extra mile to help the company to succeed.”
What is a strategy you use to stay productive and focused?
“Planning is the best strategy. Driving the company on the global market is challenging: teammates, clients, and suppliers are of different cultural backgrounds, [have different] approaches, and come from different time zones. In our business, planning means a lot to stay productive and have dedicated slots for deep work, brainstorms, mentoring, or routine tasks.”
More on FIXAR
Vaisily Lukashov, founder of aviation startup FIXAR, shared valuable insights during our interview that will inspire and motivate aspiring entrepreneurs.