Fast-growing drone technology startup PrecisionHawk is seeking to take the business to new heights by bringing in a CEO who previously co-founded and led a software company that ultimately was sold for $1.7 billion.
The Raleigh-based company’s new chief executive is Michael Chasen, co-founder and former CEO of educational software company Blackboard. Chasen took Washington, D.C.-based Blackboard public and grew the business, which was acquired by public equity firm Providence Equity Partners, to more than 3,000 employees. He also founded and led a second company, SocialRadar, that was acquired last year by Verizon.
Chasen succeeds Bob Young, who has stepped down as CEO but remains as chairman. Young, who initially was an investor in PrecisionHawk and was named CEO in July 2015, is the co-founder of open source software giant Red Hat and online book publisher Lulu.com.
Chasen said he was impressed by the expertise and passion of the PrecisionHawk team, its “great technology” and its enormous potential.
“I think it’s a multi-billion global opportunity,” he said. “We are just at the precipice of people using drone technolgy.”
Today PrecisionHawk has about 165 employees, up 50 percent in the last nine months, including about 70 in Raleigh. The privately held company doesn’t disclose revenue.
Founded in 2010, the company sells drones and a software product called DataMapper that collects and analyzes data from sensors placed on drones. It also operates thousands of drones and analyzes the collected data for its customers, and it sells a system that enables drones to navigate airspace safely.
PrecisionHawk spokeswoman Lia Reich said Young decided to step away from the CEO role because his expertise is developing early-stage companies. She noted that Young grew Red Hat to about the size that PrecisionHawk is today before handing over the reins to a new CEO.
Now Young is hoping to catch lightning once again by bringing in Chasen.
“We’re at the point now where PrecisionHawk needs to scale very, very quickly to the next level,” Reich said.
To date, PrecisionHawk has raised more than $30 million in outside funding.
Chasen said that although the company doesn’t really need to raise additional funding any time soon, “we think that this is such a big opportunity that we are certainly going to be looking for additional (capital) to expand our global presence.”
Chasen also said he sees a lot of similarities between Washington’s tech community and the Triangle’s tech community.
“It’s on the rise,” he said. “Lots of energy, lots of new investment coming to the area....I was very active in the D.C. tech scene. So I’m actually looking forward to expanding that to Raleigh and really making PrecisionHawk one of the leading startups in this region.”