Louis Van Hove wants to be the Lyft of drones.
He wants to match content providers who want the sweeping aerial video footage only a drone can provide with expert drone pilots who can make that happen. And he wants to make it easy, affordable, and best of all, a custom fit.
“The difference between us and other companies that provide drone footage is that we edit each video specifically to the client,” said Hove, a sophomore at USC Marshall. “We are a turnkey creative agency. The connection is seamless.”
Today, Hove, CEO and co-founder of a company called DroneMVP, finds he is on the cusp of something potentially really big. The idea behind DroneMVP and its early successes has landed the bootstrapped startup into the pages of Inc. Magazine as part of its annual Coolest College Startups compilation.
“The USC name is so strong. It’s got the best film school, the best engineering school, the best business school. And everybody wants to help.” -- Louis Van Hove
The company is providing a lot of work for high-end real estate companies, for whom dramatic, sweeping views of hillside or oceanfront properties can help close a sale. But they are expanding into other areas, including filmmaking.
The View from on High
There are lots of amateur drone pilots out there. But some are better than others. Much better. This point was driven home last year at the Interdrone Festival in Las Vegas. Harrison Sheinberg, the company founder and a junior at the USC School of Cinematic Arts, was astonished to see the level of craft some of the pilots could deliver. The reaction on social media, however, provided the “ah-ha” moment.
“People wanted to know who that pilot was and how could they hire him,” said Sheinberg. “We realized there was an opportunity here.”
While they are developing a list of hundreds of drone pilots, they have a curated list of 34 top pilots, and about six go-tos. “The pilots tell us they enjoy working with a small company that takes their work seriously,” said Sheinberg. “It validates their hobby and their skills. Plus it’s a way to make money off those skills.”
All in the Family
In the best USC tradition, the company is a true Trojan Family affair. Harrison and Hove were freshman year dorm hall-mates. Others on the team were in the same building.
VP of marketing Erik Bezauri is a public relations major at the Annenberg School for Communications and Marketing. The operations guy, Yashar Kutay, is a sophomore at USC Marshall. Brannen Haderle, a creative director, is majoring in cinema and media studies.
“The USC name is so strong,” said Hove. “It’s got the best film school, the best engineering school, the best business school. And everybody wants to help.”
Hove and Sheinberg are both minoring in Digital Innovation at USC Viterbi. Both credit Mike Lee, a Viterbi senior lecturer who teaches digital entrepreneurship and enterprise systems, and USC Marshall professor Elissa Grossman, with providing the building blocks and encouragement to take their idea and turn it into a company.
James Bottom of USC Blackstone Launchpad encouraged them to apply to the Inc. Magazine’s call for coolest college startups.
Low and Slow
Despite increased interest, the company is taking deliberate next steps. “Growing slowly has helped us go back after each shoot and find out what we can fine-tune to do better,” said Hove. “It lets us slowly build out our list of drone pilots, and lets us slowly expand into other areas.”
Other areas? Party planners and events coordinators have a need for high-quality drone footage, they say. So do film crews. “If you need an aerial shot for your commercial today, you have to rent a helicopter,” says Sheinberg. “Or you could hire a talented drone pilot for much, much less.”