Duran de Villiers

Co-Founder, SteadiDrone

“Don’t wait – just do it with what you have,” is Duran de Villiers’s philosophy on building a successful business. De Villiers is co-founder of a highly successful international drone company, SteadiDrone, operating out of Knysna in the Western Cape.

SteadiDrone, which only last year completed its first financial year and recorded more than R14-million in revenue, is the brainchild of De Villiers and his wife, Alexa. The company effectively began as nothing more than a couple with a PC and some big ideas.

The 29-year-old says that after completing high school in Knysna, he worked as a waiter and later taught himself graphic design, which led to the creation of his media production house, MotionPixel.

He also launched Cameralight, a site selling lighting equipment, which he later sold. De Villiers quickly saw a gap in the market for drones to support aerial photography and video.

“There wasn’t a lot available at that stage and most of it was very expensive, costing up to R100 000 for a single drone,” he says.

Having always had an interest in electronics, he acquired the necessary components, bought a 3D printer, and set about designing his own drones. With their distinctive branding, significantly lower costs, and the advantages of being foldable and capable of carrying multiple payloads, SteadiDrone took off.

There are now several models available – from low cost hobby models to high-end drones for military and commercial use. SteadiDrone won the Step Up awards last year and was shortlisted to participate in UStart in Milan recently. It also recently participated in the 2014 AUVSI expo in Orlando, US.

Business is booming, says De Villiers, with sales picking up through partners and resellers around the world. All the R&D, assembly, marketing and shipping take place out of Knysna.

The team has grown to 11 people and is increasing.

Mentors, funding or loans supported none of this growth. “We just did what we could with what we had,” says De Villiers. “All of us are aged between 19 and 31, none of us have a tertiary education, and we never sat back and waited for investors. Too many people have an idea and wait for something to happen to get their business started. I don’t believe in waiting – you should just do it.”

Asked about where he turned for mentorship and business information, De Villiers says: “Google. I just looked online for anything I needed to know.” — Tracy Burrows