Chinese drone maker DJI in talks to raise funding at US$10 billion valuation
DJI, the world's largest drone maker, is seeking to raise hundreds of millions of dollars in a funding round that would take the value of the Shenzhen-based company to some US$10 billion.
According to Forbes, people familiar with the deal said the venture funding discussions are in an advanced stage and include major Silicon Valley firms such as Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers and Accel Partners, an investor in Facebook and music streaming service Spotify.
DJI declined to comment on the fundraising or the company's valuation.
Representatives for Accel and Kleiner Perkins could not immediately be reached for comment.
A US$10 billion valuation would make DJI by far the most valuable consumer drone manufacturer in the world, and the second Chinese tech start-up to hit an eleven-figure valuation in the last six months, after smartphone maker Xiaomi closed a number of highly lucrative funding rounds, the most recent of which in December 2014 took its value to US$45 billion.
DJI's sales for 2014 are believed to be in the range of US$500 million, according to Forbes, which said that figure could double this year. Much of its growth has been sales driven, though it previously raised a small amount of funding from US venture firm Sequoia Capital.
The company launched the latest in its market-leading Phantom range of camera drones this month in a three-city event in New York, London and Munich that was reminiscent of Apple product launches.
The Phantom 3 starts at US$999 for the "Advanced" model, which comes with a 1080p camera capable of shooting 60 frames a minute and which can fly and shoot video for 23 minutes on a full charge.
DJI came to public attention for a different reason in January when a Phantom drone flown by a Washington hobbiest crashed into the White House grounds.
DJI was founded in 2006 by Frank Wang Tao, a graduate of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. Mainland-born Wang previously said he would have liked to have started the business in Hong Kong, but was unable to secure funding or government support, leading him to relocate to Shenzhen.