Griffin in the Shark Tank
How one alum’s entrepreneurial chops put her in the spotlight
by Sarah Pike (’10)
If you search YouTube for Abby Speicher’s (Honors ’13) company, DARTdrones, a video titled “Fastest Deal On Shark Tank” pops up. Just a few minutes into Abby’s pitch, Mark Cuban offers her the exact deal she was asking for.
DARTdrones, a drone flight school with custom training programs and instructors across the United States, trains drone pilots from noteworthy companies such as HBO, CBS, and The New York Times. With offices in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and now Salt Lake City, Utah, DARTdrones continues to grow.
Abby’s story isn’t one that begins and ends with Shark Tank, and she certainly isn’t new to the business world. Her father is an entrepreneurship professor, so the entrepreneurial spirit has always been in her family.
“When I was younger, I sold shirts and did really serious lemonade stands,” she says. As an international business major, Abby won the social category in Westminster’s Opportunity Quest Business Plan competition by partnering with seamstresses in Ghana to sell purses to fund education for children there. Abby recalls several people from Westminster who were especially influential in her business plan, including Steve Hurlbut, Bob Haworth, Alan Rogers, and Linda Muir.
After completing her undergraduate degree, Abby’s father urged her to look into drones. “He connected me with one of his students who had used drones in the military. We entered a business-plan competition in Scranton together and ended up winning.”
When Abby landed the opportunity to pitch DARTdrones to Shark Tank, she prepared to the max. “I practiced like a million times. I watched a ton of episodes and wrote down all the questions and had my answers ready. I also had our interns asking me questions to see if they could throw me off,” Abby says.
A pitch for Shark Tank is not like a typical investor pitch focused on presenting a slide deck and providing facts. “It was an amazing experience, but I was there alone, and many other people had co-founders to stay calm with. I was freaking out, so I’m happy that it turned out so well at the end,” she adds.
Today, DARTdrones has numerous large-enterprise clients looking for a training partner to help them scale their drone programs. The company also partners with companies that are impacted by natural disasters and can’t access and inspect their buildings, as well as with search-and-rescue operations. Its chief public safety instructor is an active police officer, firefighter, and EMT, whose role involves building trainings for public safety departments. “We’ve trained between 40 and 50 different departments and a lot of local governments,” says Abby.
As for the impact of her appearance on Shark Tank, Abby says people will often come up to her at conferences and ask for an autograph or photo with her. “I’m so embarrassed by it, but it’s nice. Of course, any press is good press.”
As for the future of her company and the industry, Abby—like a true entrepreneur—is thrilled about the unknown. “What I’m most excited about and why I love it is that it’s just this big open space, and nobody has any answers. Every company is trying to figure out how to add drones, and they’re all running into different potential problems or pitfalls or roadblocks—and I love helping companies overcome the roadblocks.”
To keep tabs on Abby’s Shark Tank-dominating company, check out the DARTdrones blog dartdrones.com/blog, and follow DARTdrones on Facebook.
About the Westminster Review
The Westminster Review is Westminster University’s bi-annual alumni magazine that is distributed to alumni and community members. Each issue aims to keep alumni updated on campus current events and highlights the accomplishments of current students, professors, and Westminster alum.