Gabriel Foreman, a co-founder of an autonomous technology company, has come a long way since hatching the idea for his company at the Zicklin School of Business in 2014.
That company, Duro UAS (which translates to “Tough Unmanned Autonomous Systems”), makes drones. But not the kind you might find buzzing down by the Hudson River on warm summer nights; the drones Duro builds here in New York City operate under and around water. Instead of stunning landscapes, these robots capture a picture of the health of rivers, harbors, and drinking water.
“My co-founder and I had worked at the same company before starting Duro,” Gabriel recalls about the company’s impetus. “We had talked about starting a drone company, and realized fairly quickly that the only viable path was underwater.”
That path has taken him to unexpected places, which he has navigated with the help of strategies he gained in Zicklin’s Evening MBA program. Essentially, the startup idea combined two business concepts: It was in a field that had a high barrier to entry—making underwater drones is complicated and expensive, which discourages competition—and it supported the triple bottom line: people, planet, and profit.
Central to Duro’s value proposition is affordability. By making high-tech environmental monitoring systems available at lower prices, Duro aims to create change by making environmental data more readily available to city governments, environmental groups, and other organizations (such as the organic seaweed aquaculture farm that is one of Duro’s clients).
“Learning the framework and language of business helped us to structure ourselves as a ‘social entrepreneurship’ company. I learned that concept from Zicklin,” Gabriel adds.
Another strategy he learned led to spinning off a second entity, Duro Workforce, which provides students ages 14 to 24 with classes in computer-aided design and entrepreneurship. Offering these programs has provided Duro with a source of revenue while the company develops fairly complex robotics products. Indeed, this was how Duro ultimately got off the ground: The startup was originally based in the cellar of the Grove School of Engineering at City College. (The company has since moved to the Mott Haven section of the South Bronx.)
With Duro’s products and programs starting to gain a following outside of New York, the plan for now is to remain focused on delivering for the company’s clients while keeping an eye on where trends in the industry are heading. Does Gabriel see his business adapting to a new environment as the world, we hope, starts to normalize in the coming months? “Definitely,” he says. “In business, things are always changing. Another thing I learned at Zicklin.”