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I Grew Up Flying in the Right Seat

A Slice on Brad Hayden, Founder and CEO of Robotic Skies

Brad Hayden quite literally grew up in the aviation industry, working for his father all through his schooling years. His father started one of the first aviation repair stations, so Hayden would help out by working on airplanes and fuel base operations after school and during summers. Though he would take a sharp turn out of the aviation industry to start his own career in high tech after college, Hayden has since returned and founded his own drone maintenance company, Robotic Skies. They have over 230 independently owned and operated service stations in more than 50 countries, and act as a one-stop-shop global marketplace for manufacturers and operators to get maintenance and repair services no matter where they are.

While on his pivot away from aviation, Hayden was marketing with high tech companies ranging from startups to Fortune 500s and learned two important things. First, he learned how to “run global programs and organizations”. Second, he learned how to “recognize disruption and how it can impact an industry”. After his pivot, Hayden knew he wanted to get back into aviation because “once it’s in your blood, it’s hard to get rid of.” He was recruited back into aerospace by a company (operating in stealth mode) making flight displays for aircraft. He helped with branding, getting them ready to launch and leading the development of new products. 

Hayden got into the drone movement early on in its development, flying his own remote control aircraft and crashing them often. This got him thinking about the future of the drone movement, and how it will most likely follow the path of manned aircraft: they’ll get bigger and will become more regulated, calling for certified technicians to repair them. This spurred the idea for Robotic Skies, and Hayden founded the company in 2014 in New Mexico. 

Hayden began his fundraising journey and set out to find investors that could add more than just capital: a partner that would look at their “strategic planning” and “assumptions” from the outside. He found this in Sun Mountain Capital, a firm based in New Mexico. Sun Mountain Capital, along with Kickstart Seed Fund from Salt Lake City, Utah, led Robotic Skies’ first funding round. From there, they’ve gone outside of the Rocky Mountain region for fundraising. Their next round was led by Boeing Horizon X, followed by an interim round to support their technology development. Currently, Robotic Skies is closing a round with a firm out of San Francisco.

Robotic Skies isn’t just making moves when it comes to fundraising, they’re also physically moving their headquarters to Salt Lake City, Utah. Hayden’s ties to Utah (he attended the University of Utah), coupled with a growing startup scene are some of the reasons they made this big decision. He notes that New Mexico is a great “home base” for the company, but Utah will be the ideal next step, even though it could be seen as a risk shaking things up.

For Hayden, however, the biggest risk he’s taken on his entrepreneurial journey was just starting his company. He remembers having countless sleepless nights and doing endless research trying to learn how to build a successful business. He had plenty of experience working for startups, but not as an entrepreneur himself. An analogy he uses compares this experience with a similar one in aviation:

I grew up flying in the right seat, but didn’t learn how to fly until later on. I always assumed I knew how to fly because I watched my father, uncle and others. It wasn’t until I went through flying lessons that I learned it’s a whole different story to be sitting in the left seat, and actually be the person that takes that aircraft off and then has to land. You’re the one who’s responsible for making that happen, and it’s very much the same thing being a founder and a CEO. It’s a whole different thing when you’re the person who takes that company off and then brings it in for a landing.” 

For others looking to embark on their entrepreneurial journey for the first time, Hayden notes, “If you have the drive to be able to start your own company and the timing is right, you should do it.” He emphasizes that the most important first step once you’ve started is doing your research in order to ensure you identify a market that will “make a difference”, along with a product that people will be “willing to pay for”. After you’ve done that, and you’re looking to fundraise, Hayden recommends finding an investor you can form a connection with, because they will  “help you navigate the waters and give you good advice as you start to grow your company.”

Hayden is motivated to grow Robotic Skies into an “incredibly successful” company, and believes it’s not a “matter of if, it’s a matter of when.” He wants to give his investors a return on their investment and provide fulfilling work for his employees. As a CEO, his “job is to motivate everyone to a common objective and make sure everyone gets back what they put into the company.”

Founder Bio

Brad Hayden began his career in marketing, working for companies such as 3Com Corporation, Informix Corporation, and Aspen Aviation. He is currently the Founder and CEO of Robotic Skies which began in New Mexico but recently relocated to Salt Lake City, Utah. Connect with Hayden on LinkedIn

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