After recently kicking off sales of its drone attachment for powerline maintenance, an Ashland-based startup hopes to get a boost from newly acquired capital.
Linebird closed on a $350,000 round of debt financing last month. The new funds will be used primarily for marketing efforts to further grow sales this year, as well as product research.
The company started to sell its Osprey Nonconductive Payload System in December. CEO and founder Michael Beiro said the company has sold a “handful” of units as of this week and has set a goal of “high double digits” of units sold by the end of the year.
The Osprey system allows users to attach to a drone the same tools a human lineman would use for transmission line work, and thereby make the work safer and less expensive. The price of the system varies within the low tens of thousands of dollars.
“One thing we proved out to the industry is you can use a drone to contact live power lines,” Beiro said.
Depending on how a given utility company operates, Linebird’s customers can vary from the utilities themselves to the contractors they call upon.
“Some utilities will have internal drone or line crews,” Beiro said. “In other cases it could be mostly or entirely sourced to third party contractors.”
The company trains customers on how to use its system, but it doesn’t build or sell drones.
Linebird’s marketing is primarily conducted through the team’s interactions at trade shows, and the company expects to be able to attend more this year with the funding now in hand. The company doesn’t currently have plans to increase its employee headcount of four.
“The plan for this raise is to really let us grow our sales this year,” Beiro said. “We’re going to take sales as far as we can with the four-man team we have. If we grow (sales) beyond that, we may look to hire additional talent.”
The company also plans to explore further applications for its technology, such as sensor installation, with a portion of the money.
The Virginia Innovation Partnership Corp. (formerly known as The Center for Innovative Technology) was the lead investor in the capital raise. Trolley Ventures, Potential Energy DC and angel investors also contributed to the round, Beiro said.
Factoring in the most recent raise, the company has raised about $520,000 to date.
Linebird was founded in 2018. It’s headquartered at the Dominion Energy Innovation Center in Ashland. Linebird formally launched the Osprey system in August.