xCraft builds and designs innovative Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) for the commercial and consumer drone industry. The company’s widely recognized drone, X PlusOne, was pitched on Shark Tank by founders JD Claridge and Charles Manning. On a rare occasion, they struck a deal with all five Sharks. As of 2023, xCraft is worth $34 million.
About the Founders
JD Claridge was raised in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, and grew up with a passion for flying. At age seven, he designed a functional hang glider. His childhood dreams led him to study aerospace and electrical engineering at LeTourneau University.
Charles Manning is also from Idaho but hails from the city of Sandpoint. After graduating with a degree in international management at Pepperdine University, he became a serial entrepreneur.
His first job was at Oracle, working as a senior product manager. He went on to hold executive positions at companies including M-Code, PLAYXPERT and Kochava.
Claridge had a wealth of experience as an aerospace engineer for various aviation companies. In 2014, he decided to launch a commercial drone company with xCraft. Claridge brought Manning on as a partner to look around the business side of things.
Along with a team of experts, JD engineered a drone that is as fast as a plane and can maneuver like a helicopter, rising to heights of up to 10,000 feet. He called it the X PlusOne, and it was a groundbreaking product for the UAV industry.
It’s no wonder why their Kickstarter campaign earned massive success. The entrepreneurs got over $173,000 in pre-orders through Kickstarter and their website.
Shark Tank Appearance
Though the early marketing efforts were successful, JD and Charles knew it wasn’t reaching its full potential. They appeared on season 7 of Shark Tank, asking for $300,000 for 20% equity.
After flying and landing the X PlusOne in front of the Sharks, the founders made a grand entrance into the Tank. They explained how they were changing the world of unmanned flight. The Sharks were intrigued by the prototype product, the PhoneDrone as it had huge potential to reach the mass market. A fight soon broke out between the Sharks.
It was so rough that JD and Charles were asked to step out of the room. When they returned, the founders proposed that the Sharks all join together and invest $1.5 million for 25%. Mark Cuban was silent as four of the Sharks agreed to the deal. Cuban was hesitant but eventually agreed to join. A $1.5 million deal is among the top 10 biggest ever deals done on the show.
After Shark Tank
After the show, the deal with the Sharks never closed but Charles and JD’s belief in their technology didn’t change. They continued running the business and raising money through crowdfunding campaigns. In 2018, they ran a StartEngine campaign that raised over $1 million.
Two years later, the PhoneDrone Ethos raised $170,000 on Kickstarter. Additionally, the startup got financing from Mountain Man Ventures and Meyer Equity. Sadly, they had to ditch the PhoneDrone and the comments on that campaign are full of angry customers looking for a refund.
They currently have eight products in-store and mainly sell to enterprise clients, government agencies and the military. The market for UAVs is rapidly growing due to the increasing demand for efficient transportation. The commercial drone market is forecasted to reach $35.6 billion by 2026.
According to SEC filings, xCraft’s annual revenue for 2021 was $199,122 and made a net loss of $392,496. In 2020, they posted a net loss of 1,064,118. The company was valued at $34 million during the last round of fundraising on StartEngine in December 2021. Despite the impressive valuation, xCraft is struggling to make a profit.