“If they just had a tool to get eyes and ears places too dangerous to send a person, that is a capability that will save lives regularly in their operations,” said Resnick, who was 17 years old at the time and knew several of the victims at the shooting. “So that’s what I set out to build.”
The result is BRINC Drones, a startup backed by top venture capital firms that recently relocated from Las Vegas to Seattle. BRINC’s drones can flip around after a crash, see in the dark, communicate through a microphone, and can even break a window. They are currently being used in Ukraine, and helped inspect damage following the Surfside condominium collapse in Florida last year.
Resnick, now 22, cited the engineering and tech talent pool in Seattle for his decision to relocate. The company plans nearly double headcount from approximately 80 to 150 employees in the next year.
BRINC differentiates itself from other drone companies by serving first-responders with tools to keep people out of dangerous situations. Its customers include the Seattle Police Department, which has used the drones to mediate a hostage negotiation, and others agencies across the country.
BRINC has raised more than $27 million from backers including Index Ventures, Tusk Venture Partners, and Next Play Ventures, a firm founded by former LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner. OpenAI CEO Sam Altman was BRINC’s first external investor, via OpenAI’s startup investment program.
Speaking to GeekWire from the company’s new headquarters in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood, Resnick had just returned from Poland where he trained Ukrainians how to use BRINC drones. BRINC recently donated 10 drones — $150,000 worth of equipment — to Ukraine, as reported by The Washington Post.
Resnick, the CEO and founder of BRINC, was the youngest awardee on the latest Forbes 30 under 30 list for Social Impact. And he was innovating long before launching BRINC.
When Resnick was 14, he built an inertial electrostatic confinement nuclear fusion reactor in his garage. He later became the youngest intern at McLaren, and then interned at Tesla, where he briefly met Elon Musk.
Resnick has matured with BRINC. One of the first videos that featured the Lemur drone included a 17-year-old Resnick sharing his vision of a “Wall of Drones” at the U.S.-Mexico border. The video depicted a drone tasing someone, a technology that Resnick now says was never created.
The New York Times revisited The Intercept’s coverage of the 2018 video of Resnick in the broader context of tension over immigration policies. The video, the author notes, “has the same cheap production values and odd juxtapositions as a late-night comedy skit.” Resnick said the video was staged.
Resnick addressed this controversy in a blog post earlier this year, condemning his actions as “immature.” Resnick intended to use technology as an alternative to violent shootouts but since acknowledged how this capability can further insinuate harm.
“Four years after discontinuing the Wall of Drones and after a lot of maturing, I view the technology and video as immature, offensive and regrettable,” Resnick wrote in the post. “It is not at all representative of the direction I have taken the company in since 2018.”
The backlash over the video motivated BRINC’s current values, which include “never build technologies designed to hurt or kill.”
It took three years of trial-and-error before BRINC took off. Resnick spent time testing the tech, including working with SWAT officers to refine and improve his prototype drone before it was used in the field by Las Vegas police.
The company’s drone avoids objects by using lidar sensing instead of GPS, which allows for operations underground or inside structures without a GPS signal, Business Insider reported.
Most of the major players in the drone market such as DJI specialize in sectors such as defense, commercial photography or delivery. Bloomberg anticipates the small drone market will be worth $22.5 billion by 2026.