Startup Spotlight: Fathom Drone

Fathom's newest model, the Fathom One.

Meet the team from Fathom!

What mysteries await below the waves? Thanks to a new startup in the Grand Rapids area, exploring the depths of the sea, or just your local pond, just got easier. Fathom Drone offers the world’s first affordable modular underwater drone, allowing users to explore depths of up to 150 feet with stunning 1080p quality video. Similar to aerial drones, Fathom’s underwater model is controlled via a mobile app or a physical controller and can capture HD video and pictures that users can share directly to their favorite social media channels. Thanks to the Fathom Drone’s streamline design and the manufacturing methods, it is able to offer the Fathom One model for the price of $600.

With a host of great features and an affordable price point (compared to others), Fathom Drone is determined to make underwater exploration and education accessible to everyone. In order to learn more about the company’s adventures and how being a part of the Grand Rapids startup community has impacted business, we caught up with company co-founder, Daniel Vessells.  

Can you give a short pitch of what your company does?

Fathom is a company devoted to getting people out and exploring the underwater world. We’ve created the most accessible underwater drone ever, and we’re using it to inspire the public imagination. Over two-thirds of our planet is covered in water. These are the same bodies of water that pirates sailed on, submarines dive through and blue whales swim in. The breadth of unexplored territory is incredibly exciting to us, and we believe we’re getting others excited as well.

What role does the city of Grand Rapids play in your company’s identity and culture?

It has really been a joy to start a company in West Michigan, specifically in Grand Rapids. There are some aspects of starting a hardware company in the midwest that make it more difficult for us, but I personally can’t imagine doing it anywhere else. The laid-back personality on the west side of the state permeates through our company and the relationships we’ve made here. That’s not to say we can’t get some serious work done, but in terms of creating an awesome company atmosphere, Grand Rapids has it in spades.

What has been your company’s largest challenge so far? How have you/are you able to overcome this?Fathom's newest model, the Fathom One.

I think I can speak for the rest of the team in saying that nothing can truly prepare you for having to learn everything on your own. No one on our team took any business classes in college and yet just yesterday a random sampling of our team would have been found sourcing hardware components, investigating international taxes and developing a recurring revenue model for a potential pilot program. This isn’t me bragging for our team though (even though I’m pretty proud of us at times); we’ve had incredible mentors that have helped us make invaluable connections and partnerships to get us where we are today.

How has your company evolved since it was first founded?

Well, when we first started this company we were 20 years old and juniors at Hope College. It’s hard to even pick out specific points of evolution, it’s more of a continuous progression. Suddenly you look back and realize that you’re working daytime and taking in revenue with an idea you had before you even understood what a startup was. I guess the biggest evolution has been the distinction of moving from a group of students working on a project, to a team of young professionals building a sustainable business.

What is your company’s vision for the next 3 years?

Quite honestly, I think you would probably have just as good of a guess as to where we’ll be in three years as I would have. Things in the tech startup space move so fast that it’ll make your head spin. I’d like to say we’ll still be developing some really cool underwater tech, but I couldn’t tell you exactly what that tech will be. Regardless, I can tell you that whatever we’re doing will stick to our core in that we’ll be inspiring people to explore, discover, and educate themselves.

How would you describe your company’s “core value(s)?”

Above all else, we’ve formed this company on three pillars: Innovation, Exploration and Education.

We’re committed to making innovative new products that honestly inspire people. That’s more than just clever marketing, that’s tapping into innate human curiosity and driving people to embrace it by exploring. The world is a big place, I know that’s also a huge cliché, but I don’t care, it’s true. Who doesn’t want to be the first to discover something? I think everybody wants to be a treasure hunter but we’re too conditioned to believe that it isn’t a real thing. I think Fathom can help change that. Lastly, but most importantly in some ways, is education. Our natural world is facing threats from every angle. I was just reading an article today about coral bleaching in the Great Barrier Reef. This isn’t an issue that will just go away on its own, people need to be educated about the seriousness of these problems in order to care about solving them. We believe that we can be a platform to assist in that education process and hopefully make the world a better place.

Thank you Fathom Drone for taking the time to chat with us!

Don’t miss previous editions of our Start-Up Spotlight Series. Do you have a favorite Michigan startup that we should know about? Tell us in the comments!