DaVinci Flies Away a Winner

Tom Denison
3 min readJul 19, 2018

July 10, 2018

Hundreds of entrepreneurs gathered at mHUB to hear seven amazing Chicago startup founders pitch at the 2nd Annual Startup Grind Chicago Launch Party. Following a quick three minute pitch, founders were grilled by three prominent local VC’s including Mark Achler (MATH Venture Partners), Jeff Carter (West Loop Ventures) and Jackson Jhin (Chicago Ventures).

LR: Tom Denison (Startup Grind), Mark Achler (MATH Venture Partners), Jackson Jhin (Chicago Ventures), Allen Zhang (DaVinci), Aaron Levy (Startup Grind), Jeff Carter (West Loop Ventures), Madeline Ulivieri (Startup Grind).

Attendees were each given $5,000 of funny money to invest in their favorite startup(s). The clear winner, “raising” $227,000 was Allen Zhang, founder of DaVinci who plans to manufacture and operate a massive network of vertical takeoff and landing aircraft that riders can hail on their phones.

Now, if you want to see what makes for a great pitch, check this out and I promise it won’t take more than 3 minutes:

Problem (30s). Not only is it frustrating to be sitting in traffic, but it is also expensive. The economic costs of congestion was $305bn in the US in 2017.

What if I told you there was a transportation solution takes you directly to your final destination like a taxi, but with no traffic and at the speed of a bullet train.

Solution (1 minute). We enable a world where people can travel around cities 3x faster than a taxi and at the same price.

The way we do that is by using electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft, known as eVTOL. We’re currently building and will operate eVTOL as a ride service.

When we launch in Chicago, imagine this. It’s 9:00 pm, you’re ready to go home now, whether you live in Lakeview or South Loop or even if you have a flight to catch at O’Hare, you will have our app on your smartphone and you request a ride. You go up to the roof of this building and DaVinci staff will already be there to help you onto your eVTOL. The aircraft will bring you to your destination, and at 180mph, O’Hare and Lakeview are only 7 minutes away. Best of all, it will be the same price as if you took an Uber.

Secret Sauce (20 seconds). The design of the aircraft and our business model is unique.

While our competitors are going for sophisticated folding propellers or electric jets. Our design is simple and elegant and buildable, given the level of technology we have today.

In terms of the business model, we build aircraft and use those aircraft to operate a service, not just one or the other, in the long-term that’s going to be the most profitable model.

Market Opportunity (20 seconds). Transportation is a $4.8 trillion dollar industry.

It has been analyzed that flying taxis have the potential to address 30% of that market. If you think long-term, I believe that could be true. In the short term, we expect to see a market size of $500 million per city that we enter.

Traction (20 seconds). If you think this is some far away… it’s not.

· We flew our first prototype last year with a human inside it and have been developing proprietary flight control and propulsion technology since then.

· We’re currently building our first 2-seat prototype and are on track to be generating revenue in 2023.

Team (20 seconds). Some of the key team members include:

· Myself, I’m a pilot and aerospace engineer. I also previously founded transportation startup.

· The other co-founders name is Tri, he was CTO on a satellite project that successfully launched a satellite into orbit.

· And we also have Shaun, who was previously VP of Defense Aerospace for Rolls-Royce.

(10 seconds) To close out,

I just want to add that of course, building a flying taxi company is not going be easy. However, our journey has just begun and we are all incredibly passionate about literally taking transportation up a notch.

Now that’s a pitch! Watch Allen really fly away in ZeroG, the first DaVinci prototype:



Tom Denison

Tom Denison wallows in happiness, harmony, and elegant simplicity. Passionate creator and funder of biomedical startups. Proud Papa of three.