A 21-year-old founder just raised $25 million from Index Ventures and Sam Altman for drone tech that helped respond to the Surfside condo collapse

Business Insider

In the hours after the infamous partial collapse of an apartment building in Surfside, Florida earlier this year, public officials were racing to assess the damage. Engineers needed to inspect the building’s foundation to determine whether adjoining properties were at risk of collapse.

But sending people into the basement would be too dangerous — so Surfside officials called 21-year-old Blake Resnick, who was already in talks to sell the city a recon drone manufactured by his fledgling startup, BRINC. Eight hours later, Resnick was on a flight to Florida to hand-deliver the drone that officials would use to fly under the building.

This month, BRINC raised a $25 million Series A funding round led by Index Ventures principal Erin Price Wright, the company told Insider. Other investors include Index’s Mike Volpi, OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, Executive Chairman of LinkedIn and Founding Partner of Next Play Ventures Jeff Weiner, and former acting defense secretary Patrick Shanahan, among others. It has been operating in stealth mode after receiving seed funding from Altman’s startup OpenAI via its startup investment program earlier this year.

“We want to make the police helicopter obsolete and respond to all serious emergencies in seconds,” Resnick said. “This round is basically enabling us to scale up that vision.”

BRINC’s design aims to bring together tech that other major drone makers don’t provide — while most drones rely on GPS for navigation, BRINC drones use lidar sensing to avoid objects, which means they can carry out missions underground or inside structures without a GPS signal. The two-pound drones can also flip themselves over if it crashes, is equipped with a two-way audio system, and can transmit live video to its operator.

Resnick was first inspired to design BRINC at the age of 17, when a gunman opened fire on a crowd and killed 59 people in his hometown of Las Vegas at Mandalay Bay, the most deadly mass shooting in US history. Following the tragedy, Resnick cold-called the lieutenant in charge of the Las Vegas SWAT team to ask what technology could have helped police more quickly identify and intercept an active shooter.

He ended up inking a deal with the Las Vegas Police Department to build a custom-built drone designed to respond to crises, which became BRINC’s first contract. The company has since gradually expanded to police and fire departments worldwide and now has roughly 100 customers, Resnick said.

Resnick’s days as an engineer began even earlier. He taught himself the basics of electrical engineering by watching YouTube videos, dropping out of high school at 14 and starting an internship at the car maker McLaren. At 16, he scored an engineering internship at Tesla and got to meet Elon Musk, who he considers a personal hero. He later interned at the Chinese drone giant DJI and was the 2020 recipient of the Thiel Fellowship, which grants $100,000 to young technologists who aren’t enrolled in college.

BRINC’s purchase orders range from $10,000 into the millions, Resnick said, and the company draws recurring revenue from services including training, maintenance, and subscription-based software. The $25 million funding round will go towards building factories and hiring engineers and salespeople, and Resnick aims to double his 55-person team.

Volpi told Insider he was convinced to invest in BRINC after meeting Resnick, who impressed him with his technical knowledge and business savvy despite his young age.

“This was very much a founder bet,” Volpi said. “In my business, you do run into a lot of very smart young people, but you don’t see nearly as many of them being wise. With Blake, I see that in him.”

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