DroneUp’s new hire is a retail powerhouse, a veteran of major names that include Apple, Under Armour, and Verizon. DRONELIFE talked to DroneUp’s new Chief Strategy Officer about why his experience at Apple – he negotiated the first iPod, and managed the global retail iPhone business – is a perfect fit for the drone industry today.
Smit is a professionals whose CV reads like an inspirational movie. A graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, he began his career as a U.S. Navy SEAL. After leaving the military, he went to Apple where he spent nearly a decade, leaving shortly after Steve Job’s death. From Apple Smit worked for other major retail names: developing strategies for Under Armour and Verizon as an employee, and other major companies as an independent consultant.
Even his leisure time is exciting: “A two-time 505 World Champion, he spends his free time sailboat racing and with his wife, twin eight-year-old boys, and fourteen-year-old daughter,” says the DroneUp announcement.
DRONELIFE asked DroneUp’s new hire how his experience at one of the biggest consumer products companies in the world translates to the drone industry.
“I spent my career at Apple on the retail side. When I first joined Apple, Wall Street laughed when Apple said they would open retail stores. A few years later, Apple Retail broke every record in the retail landscape, winning countless awards for design and innovation in customer experience,” says Smit. ” Apple retail grew at a rate that no one could have ever predicted. I believe the world is about to witness the same type of explosive growth with the drone industry. This explosive growth will come with similarly unique challenges and fun problems to solve that will require outside-the-box thinking.”
Smit says that there are a lot of similarities between the consumer electronics industry and the drone industry: drones are, after all, one type of consumer electronics. “The rapid innovation, complex interdependencies, the need to clearly define feature sets and priorities, timelines for generational launches and enhancements is identical to other consumer electronic categories,” says Smit.
Drones, however, are a new category of device. Technology solutions and applications are developing to meet almost every need of consumer’s daily lives: transportation, communication, shopping, home security, and more. Drones will eventually take their place in this ecosystem – but exactly where that place is remains unclear. “I do believe the depth and breadth of drone services are still being defined,” Smit says. “Customer expectations are at an all-time high, with companies like Uber and Instacart enabling services at the click of a button. Peer-to-peer and business-to-business service offerings have also exploded. This has allowed consumers and small businesses easy access to a myriad of professional offerings that would have been prohibitively expensive or unobtainable only a few years ago,” he points out. “The role that drones will play in terms of services offered in this new world order is yet to be defined and has yet to monetize to its full potential.”
Drones: a Shakeup of the Retail Industry
It’s the lack of clarity about what drones can do that Smit finds most interesting. “I am most excited about the potential in the drone industry. The vast majority of Americans believe that drones will play an essential role in the future, but most aren’t sure what that role will be yet, which tells us that consumers are willing to embrace this new normal,” he says.
“Coming from a retail background, I’m very excited about the prospect of same-day retail drone delivery becoming commonplace. I believe retailers with well-established hub-and-spoke infrastructure are well-positioned to leapfrog some of the front-running e-commerce players who lack the infrastructure to support affordable same-day delivery. This shake-up, with drones playing a critical role, is exciting to be a part of.”
That shake-up is one of the first things that DroneUp’s new hire will work on. “I’m very focused on refining DroneUp’s retail delivery model. As such, we are thinking through the drone airport, drone, and software systems required for large scale deliveries from multiple locations and selecting the best strategic partners in each space.”