A drone management software firm that began at the Lundquist College of Business is seeing skyrocketing success. Known as Skyward, the Portland-based company—which was founded by a small group of students, staff, two pilots, and a UO professor—was acquired in February 2017 by Verizon for an undisclosed amount.
Outside of Verizon, Skyward is also working with NASA and the world’s three largest drone manufacturers.
It all started in 2012 with Jonathan Evans, a former Blackhawk pilot, being inspired by the potential of drone technology. He was serving as a medevac pilot for Life Flight Network in Eugene when he connected with fellow MBA student Eric Ringer, MBA ’14, at the University of Oregon Lundquist College of Business.
Evans saw the need for a system to manage low airspace to avoid drone collisions and keep the people below safe.
Evans and Ringer joined forces for Skyward after the students took Stephen McKeon’s core finance course.
McKeon, researcher and computer scientist Dana Maher ’12, and pilot Jake Weber, joined Evans and Ringer to form Skyward.
Investors saw the value Skyward represented and from 2014 to 2016 contributed a total of $8.15 million to the venture, according to Crunchbase, a business data analysis platform.
Evans currently serves as co-president, Ringer as product director, and Maher as platform architect. Matt Fanelli, JD/MBA ’14, one of Evans’ and Ringer’s MBA classmates, serves as channel program manager and in-house counsel.
Other Ducks at Skyward include Rebecca Wilson, senior content strategist; Neil Calvert, junior QA engineer; and Alyce Bofferding, customer success specialist.
Evans sees the acquisition by Verizon as an opportunity to responsibly scale.
“Drones are becoming an essential tool for improving business processes at large companies, but scalability has been a challenge,” he said.
He added that Skyward’s drone operations management platform on Verizon's network allows organizations to efficiently and safely scale drones across multiple divisions and hundreds of use cases.
Mike Lanman, senior vice president of enterprise products and internet of things at Verizon, described the acquisition of Skyward as a natural progression for the telecom, leveraging its network, scale, fleet management, device management, data analytics, and security enablement capabilities.
These days professor McKeon says he is not heavily involved with the company other than being their “biggest cheerleader.” He believes Skyward has nowhere to go but up.
“With Verizon’s resources and Skyward’s position as a thought leader in aerial robotics, they have the opportunity to change the course of history,” he said. “If they continue to execute, Skyward could become one of the most important start-ups ever to be born at UO.”