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September 15, 2022

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1 big thing: Drone Racing League's dealmaker

Photo illustration of Rachel Jacobson with abstract shapes.
Photo Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios. Photo: courtesy Drone Racing League. Pictured: Rachel Jacobson

The Drone Racing League's new partnership with Google is the startup's latest big deal in its quest to become a $1 billion sport, president Rachel Jacobson tells Kerry.

Driving the news: Today's agreement with Google Cloud includes a race on Oct. 11 in San Jose, timed with its annual developer conference, and integrating Google's cloud tech in the race. 

Why it matters: The 7-year-old New York-based company is poised to ink more deals and raise more funding.

  • "We're clearly always following the market," Jacobson says. "What we care about is the fastest acceleration of our sport, so you're gonna see us build strategic partnerships, bring in funding that makes the most sense for us."

Details: Since joining the DRL in 2020, Jacobson has been orchestrating large-scale agreements. She brought with her 21 years of experience working for the NBA as one of its top dealmakers.

  • "I don't have logos to put in right field," Jacobson says. "But what I do have is brilliant engineers to build out the most successful real-world case studies for their business."
  • In 2020, the DRL partnered with DraftKings and T-Mobile. It recently extended its partnership with the United States Air Force.
  • Last year, the DRL signed a five-year partnership with blockchain platform Algorand that's worth $100 million.

By the numbers: Jacobson declined to reveal how close the DRL is to reaching her aspirational $1 billion valuation.

  • The startup has raised about $82 million to date. It last raised $50 million in Series C funding in June 2019.

The big picture: What differentiates the DRL from other major sports leagues is that it owns "the entire ecosystem," Jacobson says. The DRL, with its 63 employees, manages the drones, the race course and the pilots.

  • The DRL works with NBC to broadcast its races. Jacobson says while that deal with a traditional linear network is important for viewership, its distribution strategy is to be "the most accessible" sport.
  • "Every other sport is really looking to make a lot of their money off media rights," Jacobson says. "But when you look at [our] demographic, they want the accessibility, and we want to give that to them."

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