Toronto startup targets brands with ‘world’s first’ social drone


ANWAR ALI Special to The Globe and Mail

Drone technology, up until now, has mostly revolved around industrial applications like mine site mapping, farm field analytics and real estate. Then at the other end of the spectrum, are a few miniature sci-fi machines flown by amateur photographers.

Somewhere in the middle, Brizi has found another niche. Co-founder Anna Hu calls her startup’s creation “the world’s first social drone.” Brizi wants to give the people at mass gatherings, namely sporting events and concerts, a unique, out-of-reach vantage point to take selfies, or “dronies.”

It’s like this: Think about a control room producer calling the shots for the Kiss Cam at a ballpark. Now imagine fans in the audience taking over the switches and deciding who gets in the picture.

Brizi’s drone synchs with a smartphone, letting users snap photos and post on social media. But it isn’t just about channeling our inner narcissist. Brizi wants brands to get in on the action, too.

“It’s not about flying it in the middle of a field as a hobbyist. It’s no longer a consumer play anymore,” Ms. Hu says in one of DMZ’s communal spaces in downtown Toronto.

Users don’t have to pay anything. What Brizi is really about, and how it makes money, is content marketing: The company’s revenue model is a combination of leasing and licensing agreements. Ms. Hu aims to partner with brands, so their logos appear on the drone and the photos it takes.

When Canada Post wanted to unbutton its staid image and present itself as innovative, Brizi supplied them with a drone.

Ms. Hu started off thinking about events like weddings and fashion shows. But she discovered a scope much bigger, stadium size, even. If a major league sports team approached Brizi, she’d scroll through her brand contacts, offer up a package and split the payout.

Brizi is still a startup, so hooking up with Coke at the Air Canada Centre is a distant objective. “As a startup, we don’t instantly have access to all the top brands in the world.”

Most recently, Brizi had an unmanned aerial vehicle, as drones are more formally known, at this year’s national varsity championship basketball game hosted at Ryerson University.

Brizi’s sell to clients is not just about reaching consumers; valuable data about engagement can also be collected on their behalf.