Sitting in one of the many conference rooms here at Upward Hartford, I watch CEO & Co-Founder Michael Xu and the rest of the Candoo team interact. They joke and verbally spar with each other with the fluidity and ease of jazz band jamming. But don’t confuse their light-hearted attitude and banter for lack of tenacity and hard work, because they have that in spades. This tenacity is driven by their will for Candoo to thrive. So, what is Candoo? Candoo is a platform where businesses can request professional drone services anywhere in the United States and get intelligent insights to make well-informed decisions. They also can serve a simpler purpose, like aerial imaging for real estate, or amazing unique photos for an event. Right now, they currently have 3 employees (not including the roster of drone pilots). The team is made up of previously mentioned CEO & Co-Founder, Michael Xu, CAO & Co-Founder, Spencer Carter, and the latest addition, Partnership Acquisition Lead, Ian Matthew Harrington. More and more we see and hear about drones, but the Candoo team is working to leverage drone technology for the masses.
The origin of Candoo, like most great ideas, started with the combination of wanting to make life easier and imagination. Xu tells it best:
“Candoo started with my wife making me mow the lawn. I envisioned a future where my neighbor could buy an autonomous lawn mower and be able to share the costs with neighbors who want to use it. This led to a pitch at the first InsurTech Hartford business plan hackathon for the same model, but with drones, and eventually led us to win 2nd place at their big hackathon in September 2017, where we created software for voice-controlled drone flight in a weekend. From there, we spent quite a while ideating until we finally decided this is the right idea and team to dedicate full-time work.”
The Candoo team is intelligent enough to know that the startup road is filled with obstacles, and the best way to overcome them is to be honest about your challenges and work your hardest to eliminate them. Most of the members of the Candoo team are self-admitted “technical folks”, so they understand that sales and marketing, areas they are less experienced in, will be vital for success. Candoo has looked toward valuable resources: Shana Schlossberg, CEO of Upward Hartford and serial entrepreneur and tech maven, Eric Knight. Both have been generous with advice and knowledge of the startup world. The challenge of sales and marketing will be vital for growth, and that means they are looking to connect and network to help nurture that development:
“We really want to connect with mid-size businesses with operations that scale regionally such as utility companies or insurers. There are lots of mutually beneficial relationships to be formed with such partners because we can significantly reduce their expenses and add operational value by partnering to build intelligent software.”
The search for partners is a big part of taking Candoo to the next level. They are currently on the hunt for partners who want to pilot and test drone programs. In this scenario, a company would pay Candoo for collecting drone images and data for specific events, while they develop software they can use to make intelligent business decisions. Some technologies the team is working diligently on include autonomous flight, object detection and segmentation (including roof size estimate, tree counting, object tracking, tree cover on power lines etc.). Of course, as they grow they are always looking for investors. CEO Michael Xu mentioned that their ideal investor is someone who shares the Candoo grand vision and is well connected.
For the Candoo team, Hartford is more than just where they are stationed. I asked Michael what made the city of Hartford the place for Candoo, and he had this to say:
“I first got involved at reSET, decided to work downtown at Travelers, got involved with InsurTech Hartford, then Upward Hartford, and now finally my own startup birthed locally. Through these events, my perspective of Hartford changed from one of disregard into one of love. I've learned to love the small and tight-knit community, the abundance of opportunity, the effort of local enterprises, and even the governmental effort by Mayor Bronin and agencies I've met with. I've heard enough people complaining about Hartford, myself included, but that's where the charm is for me - there's so much room to make it better, and you have people invested enough to actually still complain. So, this is a call to take initiative to do uncomfortable things and spark change for the better.”
Michael and the Candoo team are the people that Upward Hartford is all about. They are disruptors of the status quo, and vanguards of positive innovation. But most importantly, they care. We are elated that they chose Upward Hartford to be their home base, and according to Michael, a better fit couldn’t exist:
“I would like to say that Upward Hartford is the place to work. It's not just because the space is beautiful, spacious, cool, fancy, but because the space is a symbol of collaboration, openness, and all the good cultural values that tech companies embrace by default. I think Hartford needs this, and not just to have the people say we're embracing the mentality, but to have established companies, legislation, and rules changed to accommodate these cultural aspirations. In my very biased opinion, without these changes, even if 100% of the population had the right mindset, nothing will come of it because we'll be defeated by rules.”
(Video Produced by Isaac Bilmes.)
For more on Michael’s experience at Upward Hartford, check out this blog he authored!
Thanks to Michael Xu, Spencer Carter & Ian Matthew Harrington of Candoo! Check out their website!
Published by: Andrew Hummel in Blog