Editor’s Note: This is part of a series profiling “Uncommon Thinkers”: inventors, scientists, technologists and entrepreneurs transforming industries and driving positive change. All six will be recognized at the GeekWire Gala on Dec. 6. Uncommon Thinkers is presented in partnership with Greater Seattle Partners. Read other profiles here.
Don’t get your hopes up that Sam Altman will actually wire the money.
That’s what Blake Resnick’s dad told him after the call. This was long before the OpenAI CEO became known beyond Silicon Valley. Dr. Michael Resnick didn’t know exactly who Altman was. So when his son said some investor had promised him enough capital to launch his drone startup, it seemed too crazy to be true.
“But sure enough, the next day it showed up, and he was off to the races,” Michael Resnick said.
That was one of the moments that helped Blake Resnick’s dad fully appreciate his son’s uncommon way of thinking.
This was the kid who would skip classes to talk about books with the school’s principal.
This was the teenager who went to college when everybody else was in high school, only to drop out of Northwestern University’s mechanical engineering program to launch a startup.
This was the untested startup founder who somehow got one of the tech industry’s most notable angel investors to give him millions of dollars in less than 30 minutes.
Now 23 years old, Blake Resnick is the founder and CEO of Seattle-based Brinc. The company makes unmanned aerial vehicles and a throwable communications ball for police and other first responders.
After focusing initially on using drones for SWAT standoffs, Brinc envisions them ultimately allowing police to avoid dangerous high-speed chases, and helping medical providers make emergency Narcan deliveries.
Resnick started the company in response to the deadly mass shooting at the Route 91 Harvest music festival in his hometown of Las Vegas. He cold-called the Las Vegas Metro Police Department and met with its SWAT commander to learn how technology such as drones might help the department gain rapid situational awareness in crises.
The company delivered the first production units of its Lemur 2 drones to police and emergency responders in the U.S. at the begining of November. The drones can see in the dark, communicate, break glass, and map the environment, among other features, minimizing the risk to law enforcement personnel in dangerous situations.
Early customers include the New York Police Department.
Brinc is headquartered in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood, where the company’s drones are both designed and manufactured, with help from fleets of 3D printers. Resnick oversees a team of about 100 people.
Asked if he would rather spend his time building a drone or a company, he was candid about his preference.
“I’d rather be building a drone,” he acknowledged. “For sure. I mean, it’s so much fun. It is a great time.”
But to build the best drone, he knows his focus is best placed on building the company — assembling the team with deep expertise in all of the many specialties needed to design and manufacture cutting-edge technology.
“I want to have impact,” he said. “I want to help leave the world in a better place than where I found it. And the way to do that is by building organizations, and collecting the right people, and financing them with the right capital, and making sure everyone is rowing in the same direction to do something that’s valuable to the planet.”
Resnick has an ability to see the big picture while also diving deep into the details, said Erin Price-Wright of Index Ventures, one of Brinc’s investors. Price-Wright is the other member of Brinc’s two-person board, along with Resnick.
He knows the components of the drone down to the individual part number, for example, but he’s also able to zoom out and explain how the company’s larger objectives led to specific engineering decisions, she said.
With investments in companies such as Aurora (self-driving vehicle technology) and Scale AI (AI annotation), Index Ventures hadn’t historically invested in hardware companies such as Brinc. But after spending time with Blake, people at Index were “blown away by him and his depth of thinking around this idea,” Price-Wright said.
Resnick was diagnosed with dyslexia in the first grade. He said he struggled with it especially as a kid, going through intensive reading classes. He still works long hours, he said, in part because he’s slower to process information.
Colleagues say Resnick focuses intensely on customers. He’s determined to get feedback to build the best product.
“There’s this constant drive to make a product that solves a problem,” said Walker Robb, Brinc’s vice president of engineering. “The vision for the feature set is so well-aligned with the user and what they’re trying to do. It’s not like, ‘Oh, let’s add this thing because it’s cool.’ “
After unveiling the Lemur 2 in March, for example, the Brinc team made a series of upgrades to the drone before shipping, including improvements to its antenna range, and better self-righting and obstacle avoidance capabilities.
Of course, a profile about Resnick’s uncommon way of thinking wouldn’t be complete without a question about his hair. He explained that he likes it long and messy because it’s low-maintenance. He doesn’t get haircuts often, so it just ends up that way. But it also makes him a little more memorable and recognizable, can be helpful at times.
Resnick’s dad, Dr. Michael Resnick, is an ob/gyn who trained at Cornell University and worked at New York Hospital, Sloan-Kettering, and the Mayo Clinic, and also worked as a medical reporter for many years for ABC television.
His mom, Angela Caruso, is a special ed teacher, and he also has a younger sister.
Walking around Brinc headquarters recently, I asked Resnick if he thought his personality was more a result of nature or nurture. He offered his thoughts, and then he did something unusual, at least for an interview: he asked for my thoughts on the question, based on my own life.
“What I’m most proud about with Blake is that he has a certain kindness and awareness of others,” his dad said. “He can present like a president, but talk to anybody on the street. I’m much more proud of that — that he’s a good person, a good man, than I am just that he’s become successful.”
Circling back to the story of Sam Altman’s investment in Brinc: it gets even crazier.
As Blake Resnick explained on the GeekWire Podcast in July, he had failed a few times at fundraising and was feeling discouraged when a friend connected him to a TikTok influencer manager who was getting into startup investing.
The technology was over the head of that person, but he connected Blake to some friends, one of whom turned out to be Altman’s ex-boyfriend. He thought Resnick’s pitch was interesting and offered to connect him to Altman.
About 25 minutes into their call, Resnick was almost done with his pitch when Altman said he was very sorry but he needed to jump off early — because Elon Musk was calling on the other line. But Altman promised to follow up.
“Maybe 45 minutes go by, or an hour goes by. He sends me an email with three or four questions,” Resnick recalled. “I answer the questions, and then he replies, ‘I’ll take the whole round.’ “
Source: Geek Wire
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