Frank Wang

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Frank Wang
汪滔
PronunciationWāng Tāo
Born1980 (age 39–40)
NationalityChinese
Alma materHKUST
OccupationFounder and CEO of DJI
Net worthIncrease US$5.4 billion (October 2019)[1]

Wang Tao (Chinese: 汪滔; pinyin: Wāng Tāo; born 1980), also known as Frank Wang, is a Chinese engineer, entrepreneur and the founder and CEO of the technology company DJI, the world's largest manufacturer of commercial drones. As of January 2020, he has a net worth of 4.8 billion US dollars.[1]

Biography[edit]

Wang was born in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province. He showed an interest in flight and airborne devices from a young age, but received mediocre grades as a schoolchild.[2] He attended the Hong Kong University of Science & Technology (HKUST) for college, and drew the attention of math professor Li Zeixiang following an impressive performance on a class project to build a helicopter flight control system. Zeixiang subsequently brought Wang into the school's graduate program. In 2005, Wang participated in ABU Robocon and his HKUST team won third prize among teams competing from across Asia.[3] HKUST granted him HKD $18,000 (USD $2,300) to conduct research and develop a drone.[4]

Wang built the first prototypes of DJI's projects in his dorm room, selling the flight control components to universities and Chinese electric companies. He used the proceeds to move to the industrial hub of Shenzhen and hired a small staff in 2006. The company struggled at first, with a high degree of churn among employees that has been attributed to Wang's abrasive personality and perfectionist expectations of his employees. The company sold a modest amount of components during this period, relying as well on financial support from Wang's family friend, Lu Di, who provided USD $90,000 and managed the company's finances.[2]

In 2010, Wang hired a high school friend, Swift Xie Jia, to run the company's marketing. DJI began to cater more to drone hobbyists in markets outside of China. In 2011, Wang met Colin Guinn at a trade show, and the two of them would found DJI North America, a subsidiary company focusing on mass market drone sales. In 2013, DJI released the first model of the Phantom drone, an entry-level drone which was significantly more user-friendly than any other drone on the market at the time. The Phantom was a worldwide commercial success, but this success led to conflict between Guinn and Wang. Midway through the year, Wang made an offer to buy Guinn out, which Guinn refused. By the end of the year, DJI had locked all employees of the North American subsidiary out of their email accounts and was well on its way to shutting down the subsidiary's operations. Guinn sued DJI, and the case was settled out of court.[2]

In 2015, DJI eclipsed the success of the Phantom with the release of the Phantom 3, whose even greater popularity was in part due to the addition of a built in live-streaming camera.[5] DJI was now the largest consumer drone company in the world,[6] driving many of its competitors out of the market over the following years.[5] In 2017, Wang became Asia's youngest tech billionaire.[4] By 2020, DJI held nearly 77% of the US market share for consumer drones, with no other company holding more than 4%.[5]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Wang's profile on Forbes website
  2. ^ a b c Mac, Ryan. "Bow To Your Billionaire Drone Overlord: Frank Wang's Quest To Put DJI Robots Into The Sky". Forbes. Retrieved 2020-04-03.
  3. ^ "Alumni Kaleidoscope – Frank Wang".
  4. ^ a b "Drone maker Frank Wang becomes Asia's youngest tech billionaire". techwireasia.com.
  5. ^ a b c Schmidt, Blake; Vance, Ashlee (25 March 2020). "DJI Won the Drone Wars, and Now It's Paying the Price". www.bloomberg.com. Retrieved 2020-04-03.
  6. ^ "Up: A Chinese firm has taken the lead in a promising market". The Economist. 11 April 2015. Retrieved 19 April 2015.