The French Chamber of Great Britain holds its annual Franco-British Business Awards again on 15th November 2023 and we’re proud to be sponsoring the award for SME of the Year.
Valtus UK sponsored the New Business award in 2022 and we recently caught up with last year’s winner, Etienne Louvet of IONA Drones. IONA has the capacity to revolutionise rural logistics, promising a future where distance and isolation no longer dictate accessibility.
In just twelve months, IONA has increased its capacity for development, raised significant funding, and the drones are currently soaring through test flights. It is a venture not to compete with ground delivery services but to complete the link where the road ends and the need for essential services continues.
What Inspired IONA?
“I have a climate tech/deep tech background”, said Etienne. He went on to explain that the first notions of IONA lay in a remote village in Brittany, where lockdown life showed in stark relief how fragile rural logistics can be.
Etienne, moved by the plight of his grandmother, cut off from vital medication in this remote village, saw logistics not just as a service, but as a lifeline.
“I asked myself what is the future of logistics for rural areas? IONA do not compete with delivery vans, we are a complementary tech. Delivery vans can reach urban or suburban areas. Air transportation is the only other low-cost solution for rural areas.”
Thus, IONA was born.
Educating potential partners about the essential nature of rural deliveries means dispelling myths. One such myth is that rural dwellers prefer seclusion over services. In fact, they need deliveries more than most. IONA’s ‘delivery van in the sky’ is a vital connector for those far from essential services.
When it comes to investment, Etienne has found the US fertile ground for budding ideas. IONA has gone from strength to strength with investment from angel investors in the US.
“We are supported by the UK department for Transport, which is very cool. We have a strong team. We have proved that we are capable and so follow on investment has not been a problem. The appetite for early-stage investment, and therefore increased risk, is higher in the US.”
In a market vying for the brightest, IONA stands out by offering more than just a job – it offers a mission. Engineer’s coming out of university now are searching for a way to use their powers for good; to help make the world better, not worse. Inspired by the philosophical musings of the book, ‘Man’s Search for Meaning,’ Etienne believes the company attracts those seeking purpose.
“IONA have a strong company mission, to have positive social impact by championing sustainability. We’re not only in it for the money. If we have to make money, we want to make money the right way.”
Looking ahead, IONA’s blueprint for international expansion is as much about community as it is about commerce. They address not only the logistics of delivering goods but also the challenge of driver shortages and the economics of local businesses. Their vision is to transform places like the Orkneys, where 22,000 people find it difficult to reach essential services.
IONA isn’t just delivering parcels; it’s delivering progress and they’re on the cusp of unveiling something big.
More on their big reveal in the next post.