Start-up snapshot: Warehouse stocktaking using drones

Start-up: DroneScan, South Africa

Jasper Pons

Jasper Pons

About three years ago, Jasper Pons visited a manager of a large warehouse and discovered that a huge amount of man hours – as well as heavy machinery such as forklifts – were required just to take inventory of stock which changed daily. And so he had an idea: what if drones were used to scan inventory in warehouses? This was how DroneScan was born, a start-up offering a robotic scanning device as a solution to the time-consuming task of warehouse stocktaking.

Pons is also the founder and owner of Scanman, a developer and supplier of warehouse management and logistics software.

1. If you were given US$1m to invest in DroneScan right now, where would it go?

We would hire some staff to accelerate product development… and rent premises to do more advanced testing and make sure the product is really slick. We’d use the money to do six months of trials in a large warehouse. With no need to rush, we could take another year to simply keep on improving and finishing the product.

2. What risks is your business facing?

The cash flow of getting the product to market.

3. So far, what has proven to be the most successful form of marketing?

The best form has been something we didn’t actually think would work, and that has been Twitter. Google AdWords has also helped. And then media attention – that has actually been the best form of marketing we have had.

4. Describe your most exciting entrepreneurial moment.

For me it was realising the opportunities of using a drone for this specific task, and then when I joined the dots and worked out how practically it can be done.

The second most exciting part was when the patent was submitted… and then, after many months, we got our Support Programme for Industrial Innovation (SPII) funding approved from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

5. What has been the biggest mistake you have made concerning your start-up?

I think the biggest mistake was attempting to do everything ourselves in the beginning. We spent a lot of time trying to master the drone controlling system on our own, which was very hard. We have now realised there are other people who are really good at controlling drones while we are good at the scanning software side. So I have learnt to stick to our core focus and what we are good at, and then include other people and build an ecosystem around ourselves.