The Endeavor search and selection methodology is a rigorous process that uncovers some of the most talented, innovative entrepreneurs from around the world. Endeavor Entrepreneurs build sustainable growth models, create significant jobs, and have an outsized impact in their regions by paying it forward to their local entrepreneurial ecosystems. In this series, Endeavor Entrepreneurs chat with us about their journeys to success and the lasting career impact of a strong support network, from their point of view.
SkySpecs is simplifying renewable energy asset management so less can do more for the planet.
SkySpecs Co-Founders Danny Ellis and Tom Brady, met in the summer of 2008 at a hydraulics lab in Kalamazoo, Mich. during a summer aerospace engineering internship through the University of Michigan. At first, they started working with drones for fun and were part of a student research group, Michigan Autonomous Aerial Vehicles (MAAV), whose goal was to build a completely autonomous drone that could navigate an unknown building in order to retrieve a flash drive. After several years of that research, they joined the incubator program at University of Michigan, confident there were going to be commercial applications.
The original pitch for the business was a solution looking for a problem.
SkySpecs launched in 2012, with the belief that many industries were going to benefit from autonomous flying cameras. This assumption proved to be true, but it came years after the initial founding of the company. SkySpecs began as a robotic inspection firm focused on using custom, automated drones to assess the health of wind turbine blades, reducing the standard time from 4+ hours to 15 minutes and removing the need for a technician from dangling from ropes. In 2017, SkySpecs launched its first commercial product and completed its first complete wind farm inspection.
This eventually led to an evolution of products focused on renewable energy asset management and predictive maintenance to help push the wind industry further with its existing resources. Since then, SkySpecs has inspected over 600,000 wind turbine blades in 31 countries and covers 90% of the asset owners and operators in North America. What began as a 3-person team has grown to over 260 FTE and 100+ contractors with offices in the U.S., Austria, Amsterdam, Ireland, Denmark, Serbia, UK, and India.
SkySpecs has been recognized many times over the years through industry innovation awards. In 2016, Danny Ellis and Tom Brady were recognized in the Forbes “30 under 30.” Additionally, Danny was recognized as a Crain’s Detroit 40 Under 40 awardee in 2021, and in 2023 received both the EY Entrepreneur of the Year for the Michigan/Ohio region and Michigan Venture Capital Association’s Michigan Entrepreneur of the Year award.
SkySpecs accelerated its growth in 2022 with an $80 million capital raise, which stands as among the largest funding rounds raised by a Michigan technology company.
" If not for Endeavor, I would be less connected to the entire world. Endeavor has expanded my perspective on global entrepreneurship and connected me to incredible people with diverse backgrounds and experiences. Collectively, this has built up my own perspectives and advice that I have passed on to other entrepreneurs."
Entrepreneur: Danny Ellis, Co-Founder & CEO, SkySpecs
Year Selected to Endeavor: 2017
Why did you decide to go through Endeavor’s selection process and how have your needs changed since then?
We decided to go through the Endeavor selection process because the Detroit Managing Director at the time was one of our first mentors when we started the business in 2012. We had never heard of Endeavor before, but it didn’t take long to be impressed with the global reach and quality of mentors and entrepreneurs within the network. We were just beginning to expand internationally and knew we would need some help. When we went to our first International Selection Panel in London and were extremely impressed with the caliber of mentors, judges, and other entrepreneurs in the process.
Since we were selected, we have become a global company and scaled our employee count from 40 – 260. Our needs continue to evolve at every stage of the journey. In 2019, I went to the Harvard program right before we raised our Series C and had started considering growth through acquisitions. We spent half a day discussing acquisition case studies and I was selected to be a live case study for the group. The final document I put together ended up being a guide that we would follow to acquire two companies in April 2021.
"I believe all entrepreneur support organizations have their strengths at various points of the entrepreneurship journey with Endeavor taking the premiere spot in growth and later stage companies."
What Endeavor services were most impactful to your business’s growth?
The service that has had the singular largest impact on our growth was the Harvard program in 2019 and the Stanford program that my co-founder went to in 2022. These programs are densely packed with content from incredibly strong professors, entrepreneurs, and fellow Endeavor Entrepreneurs. Endeavor’s network is its biggest strength which is demonstrated at all of its events and programs. Peer networks are particularly important because typically peers have gone through similar problems most recently and have a stronger connection to the emotional side of problems you are going through. Peers can be the best sounding boards, emotional support outlets, and guides to immediate resources and solutions that they’ve used.
What makes Endeavor different from other entrepreneur support organizations?
There are a wide variety of entrepreneur support organizations ranging from incubators to accelerators to industry groups. Endeavor is unlike any other group I’ve ever been a part of or considered joining. Many other groups prioritize accepting as many entrepreneurs as possible (which makes sense for their business models), but sacrifice quality in the process. Endeavor’s extremely rigorous process and multi-leveled acceptance requirements keep the caliber of entrepreneurs extremely high. Endeavor also focuses on growing the entrepreneurs instead of growing the Endeavor brand at the expense of diluting the quality. Endeavor is also one of the few that focuses on international first, trying to bring the entire world together. I believe all entrepreneur support organizations have their strengths at various points of the entrepreneurship journey with Endeavor taking the premiere spot in growth and later stage companies.
Also, I have made some incredible, life-long friends through Endeavor all around the world. I love being able to travel to almost any country and have an Endeavor connection that I can meet up with. This makes the world a much easier place to work and travel.
"I have made some incredible, life-long friends through Endeavor all around the world. I love being able to travel to almost any country and have an Endeavor connection that I can meet up with."
What would you tell an entrepreneur who is thinking of going through Endeavor’s selection process?
If you are looking to grow your business internationally and are open to learning from some of the most accomplished group of people assembled, then Endeavor is worth your time to go through the selection process. The process is not easy and does require an up front investment of time, but if you are selected, it will be well worth the effort.