China may be known as the world capital of mass production, but the country’s tech industry can foster innovation by focusing on markets with very specific needs.
Instead of boxing themselves into a narrow category, a startup that addresses niche use cases has the opportunity to make a huge impact, said DJI vice president Andy Pan during a panel at the TechCrunch/TechNode event in Shanghai.
DJI is best known for consumer drones, but the Accel Partners-backed startup, which has a reported valuation of about $8 billion to $10 billion, recently launched two major product to attract enterprise clients. These include the Matrice 100, which can customized with DJI’s software development kit, and a development platform.
Providing tools for third-party developers means DJI drones can be adapted and used by industries as diverse as oil and gas, construction, and agriculture.
By serving the needs of smaller markets, Pan believes DJI exemplifies a new business philosophy emerging in China as the first group of people to grow up with both the Internet and economic stability launch their careers.
“I’ve noticed that if you look at the previous generation of entrepreneurs, a typical strategy was to pick a mass market product and then find a new way to attack its business model. But the new generation of entrepreneurs, like DJI’s founders, want to pick something that never existed before and is in a narrow category. They have a passion for providing something different and want to occupy the market,” he said.
“The younger generation of entrepreneurs are not satisfied with shipping cheap mass market products like cellphones to foreign markets. They want to do something different.”
DJI opened its software API and created its drone platform because the company does not have the resource to handle every request from different verticals on its own.
Some use cases for their drones were totally unanticipated. For example, some farmers rely on drones to monitor and protect their fields from thieves. Another company currently uses DJI’s software development kit and drones to send real-time information from highway accidents to police and insurance companies.
“We previously said the sky’s the limit,” Pan said. “But now we believe that the sky is no longer the limit.”