Meet Blake Resnick, the 22-year-old engineer who just moved his fast-growing drone startup to Seattle
After the 2017 mass shooting in his hometown of Las Vegas where more than 50 people were killed, Blake Resnick wondered how technology could have helped.
“If they just had a tool to get eyes and ears in places too dangerous to send a person to, it’s a life-saving capability that will be a regular part of their operations,” said Resnick, who was 17 at the era and knew several of the victims in the shooting. “So that’s what I decided to build.”
The result is BRINC Drones, a startup backed by top venture capital firms that recently moved from Las Vegas to Seattle. BRINC’s drones can flip over after a crash, see in the dark, communicate via microphone, and even break a window. They are currently in use in Ukraine and helped inspect damage following the collapse of the Surfside condominium in Florida last year.
Resnick, now 22, cited Seattle’s engineering and technology talent pool for his decision to move. The company plans to double its workforce from around 80 to 150 employees next year.
BRINC differentiates itself from other drone companies by providing first responders with tools to keep people out of dangerous situations. His clients include the Seattle Police Department, which used the drones to mediate a hostage negotiation, and other agencies across the country.
BRINC has raised more than $27 million from backers including Index Ventures, Tusk Venture Partners and Next Play Ventures, a company founded by former LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner. OpenAI CEO Sam Altman was BRINC’s first external investor, through OpenAI’s Startup Investing Program.
Speaking to GeekWire from the company’s new headquarters in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood, Resnick had just returned from Poland where he trained Ukrainians in the use of BRINC drones. BRINC recently donated 10 drones – $150,000 worth of equipment – to Ukraine, as reported by The Washington Post.
Resnick, CEO and Founder of BRINC, was the youngest winner on the latest Forbes 30 under 30 for Social Impact list. And he was innovating long before launching BRINC.
Before he could drive, Resnick built an inertial electrostatic confinement nuclear fusion reactor in his garage. He then became McLaren’s youngest intern, then interned at Tesla, where he briefly met Elon Musk.
Resnick has matured with BRINC. One of the first videos featuring the Lemur drone included a 17-year-old Resnick sharing his vision of a “drone wall” on the US-Mexico border. The video showed a drone tasering someone, a technology that Resnick says was never created.
The New York Times revisited The Intercept’s coverage of Resnick’s 2018 video in the broader context of tensions over immigration policies. The video, the author notes, “has the same cheap production values and weird juxtapositions as a late-night comedy sketch.” Resnick said the video was staged.
resnick addressed that controversy in a blog post earlier this year, condemning his actions as “immature.” Resnick intended to use the technology as an alternative to violent gunfights, but has since recognized how this ability can insinuate further harm.
“Four years after the drone wall was shut down and after a long maturation, I consider technology and video to be immature, offensive and regrettable,” Resnick wrote in the post. “It’s not at all representative of the direction I’ve taken the company in since 2018.”
The backlash from the video motivated BRINC’s current values, which include “never creating technology designed to injure or kill”.
It took three years of trial and error before BRINC took off. Resnick spent time testing the technology, including working with SWAT officers to refine and improve his prototype drone before it was used in the field by Las Vegas police.
The company’s drone avoids objects by using lidar detection instead of GPS, allowing operations underground or inside structures without a GPS signal, Business Insider reported.
Its competitors include Viper Drones, Skyfire and others.
Most of the major players in the drone market such as DJI specialize in sectors such as defense, commercial photography or delivery. Bloomberg forecasts the market for small drones to reach $22.5 billion by 2026.