Facing Funding Challenges, Black Founder Dwight Neptune Aim for Tech Stardom

Dwight Neptune’s journey from an electrical engineering student with a drone-making hobby to the CEO of a burgeoning drone company is an inspiring tale of passion and entrepreneurship. Neptune’s interest in drones began in high school, where his fascination with building these flying devices gradually developed into a more serious pursuit. This hobby ultimately led him to establish Beagle Drones at the remarkable age of 18.

Beagle Drones, a startup focusing on First Person View (FPV) drones, was born out of Neptune’s desire to create technology that people would enjoy. “I wanted to build something that people enjoy and saw FPV as the entryway to building really cool tech products,” he shared in an interview with CNBC. Along with his friends, Neptune crafted a prototype FPV drone using off-the-shelf parts. Their initial product, launched in May 2017, successfully tapped into the market, marking the beginning of Beagle Drones.

Driven by his entrepreneurial spirit, Dwight Neptune decided to leave Mercer County Community College to dedicate himself full-time to his role as CEO of Beagle Drones. By October 2020, the company was on track to achieve $100,000 in sales, demonstrating significant growth. Neptune’s vision extended beyond this milestone as he aimed to raise $1 million at a $4 million valuation, positioning the company for further expansion.

However, Neptune faced significant challenges, particularly in securing the necessary funding to sustain and grow his business. The difficulties he encountered are not uncommon among Black founders, who historically have faced substantial barriers in the venture capital landscape. According to the Harvard Business Review, Black founders receive less than 1% of venture capital funding. Additionally, 81% of venture capital firms have no Black investors, and the industry remains predominantly White, with only 3% of investors being Black.

Reflecting on his experiences, Neptune told CNBC, “I’ve been with several VCs, angel funds, and nine times out of 10, I’m the only Black founder there.” Despite these challenges, Neptune remains committed to fostering diversity within his company. “Our team is extremely diverse by default because our C-suite and our founding team is diverse, and it just attracts other people that want to work with a diverse group,” he explained.

Neptune aspires to become a prominent figure in the tech industry and envisions Beagle Drones as a trailblazing company. The company’s mission is to simplify drone racing for beginners, encapsulated in their slogan: “A one-stop shop for beginners to experience drone racing. It’s easy. We do all the hard work, so you don’t have to.”

Based in New Jersey, Beagle Drones offers two drone models priced at $130 and $400. In November, the company launched its third drone, NOVA, on Kickstarter. The NOVA drone, described as “a ready-to-fly, FPV drone equipped with a built-in 4k camera and lightweight cyberpunk shell design,” exemplifies the company’s innovative approach. Its lightweight design makes it suitable for both indoor and outdoor use, appealing to travelers and hobbyists alike.