When I hear stories of people my age doing incredible things, it invigorates me. When I learn that Portuguese people are building a reputation for themselves and their country, it makes me incredibly proud. But when my school friends tick those boxes, I blog about it!
I was thrilled to find out that André Croft de Moura, my friend and birth-room buddy (we were born in the same hospital ward, one day apart, and graduated high school together 18 years later) won the prestigious KIC InnoEnergy prize for his start-up, Pro-Drone. KIC InnoEnergy is the European company for innovation, business creation and education in sustainable energy. Instead of writing about the prize and the company, I wanted André to tell you about it himself.
Catarina: First of all, congratulations again on this fantastic achievement! We’ve been hearing a lot about drones over the last few years. Tell us a little bit about what Pro-Drone is and how you’re using drones?
André: At Pro-Drone, we believe that drones are not a generic tool. They should be customized and prepared from beginning to end to serve a particular purpose. At Pro-Drone, we’re developing drones specialized in vertical inspections. So, situations where the UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) has to be very close, vertically, while flying along the structure it is trying to inspect. The first market we’re targeting are wind blade inspections. We have equipped UAVs with space awareness sensors to allow them to navigate in relation to the structure they’re inspecting, resulting in autonomous flight which makes results much more reliable and the whole operation much more robust.
C: What’s been the most challenging part in all this? Or is it yet to come?
A: To date, the most complicated task has been bringing in the right people to join the project. I believe that in the future, the toughest part will be to scale the business into a global company.
C: Where do you see Pro-Drone in five years?
A: In five years, I see Pro-Done continuing to develop cutting-edge UAV technology and licensing them globally so that we can replace many dangerous and hazardous tasks still carried out by people.
C: Portugal has seen a huge surge in start-ups in recent years, especially in the technology sector and some have even compared it to Silicon valley. Do you feel it’s deserving of this title? Do you see a lot of tech start-ups with potential to expand abroad?
A: Definitely. The lack of opportunities within traditional industries in Portugal has led our generation to search for success and careers elsewhere, so many of us have decided to go through the more risk-ridden path of entrepreneurship. So, technically, I believe Portuguese have always been very apt, but these conditions have really pulled this generation into entrepreneurship and I believe many of them can grow into global businesses.
C: You’ve taken such a brave step and it’s really starting to pay off. What advice do you have for young entrepreneurs?
A: We’re just starting off. We’re not even a year old. If you imagine a company’s life like a human life, we’re still a baby. Just starting to crawl. Our advice is very limited, but it would definitely be that you just have to go full on, keep your head down and trust that there’s reward and success around the corner, even though it often feels like it’s miles away. You can’t really stop to think about things for very long because time is very precious. The last thing I would say is to surround yourself with the right people – people that you can trust and have like-minded ambitions. That’s absolutely essential.