PodcastStart Ups and Entrepreneurs

Pivoting To the UAV Industry – Story of Polar Pro: Austen Butler

How are companies responding to the rise of the drone industry?


austenbutlerAusten Butler is an avid snowboarder and VP and co-founder of Polar Pro Filters in Newport Beach, Califorinia.  Polar Pro specializes in manufacturing accessories for cameras. Originally targeting GoPro camera users, in the past two years, the company  successfully pivoted to providing filters and accessories to drone operators.  Austen shares the story behind Polar Pro, how it got it started, its successful line of products and how the rise of consumer and commercial drones propelled the company into new markets.

In This Episode

  • Introduction:  Austen Butler is the VP or Polar Pro. Polar Pro produces filters and accessories for cameras and drones.  The company four years old, having been created by Jeff Overall and Austen.  Jeff and Austen were avid skiers and snowboarders. They used GoPro cameras to film their stunts but found the cameras were overpowered by bright snow and light. Jeff began experimenting with noise density films and eventually found a solution that enhanced the capabilities of the GroPro.  After graduating from college, the duo moved back Newport Beach, California and established the company. The company’s first small polarizer filter was developed in October 2011.
  • Product Differentiation. Autsen discusses what makes Polar Pro filters different than other filters. Quality of construction is one reason and another is that filters are designed to solve a specific problem that camera and drone users have brought to the company’s attention
  • Rise of the Drone Industry. In 2014, Polar Pro had a booth at the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) show. They had brought some prototype filters for the DJI Phantom,which found a huge following by drone pilots. After that show, Polar Pro began to develop filters for all drones as part of their general product line. Today, the company produces filters and accessories for all drones.
  • Shark Tank Experience. Austen describes what it was like for the company to appear on Shark Tank.  Two sharks initially agreed to invest, but in the end, it was Mark Cuban that became their shark. Cuban’s expertise brought well needed web support and on-line marketing to help the company manage the growth it was about to incur.
  • Drone Sales Impact. Since entering the drone market, Austen estimates that sales of drone related filters and accessories accounted for about 80% of the company’s sales.
  • Product Costs. Most individual filters run under $40. The company also offers 3 and 6 pack filters for $100-$150. Additionally, Polar Pro produces a professional grade cinematography series geared to the high-end videographer or someone seeking the best possible quality correction.
  • Smarter Drone Operators. Early GoPro users did not readily adopt filters, except for special situations, but today, most drone videographers understand the benefits of using ND filters to obtain quality images.  Part of the reason was that GoPros were primarily used for action shots, whereas drone pilots are focusing in on sweeping reveals and cinematic shots, where a ND filter can provide benefit.
  • Industry Trend. Austen sees an increase in high quality systems migrating to the consumer market.  Where at one time, the demand for quality filters and accessories might have been most observed at the high end of the professional market, Austen sees a migration of quality systems into the consumer market. Consumer and prosumer users are also wanting the highest level of quality in their images. As such, Austen sees a continued demand for quality filters and accessories which PolarPro is positioning itself to serve.
  • ND Filter Tips.  For someone thinking about using an ND filter with their drone, Austen recommends buying a selection of ND filters. There is no one ND filter for all situations, so new users should be a few different ones and practice with each in different conditions so they can see the differences themselves.  There are a lot of on-line resources that can help users understand ND filters and what’s possible.
  • About Austen Butler. Austen graduated from Sierra Nevada College with a degree in Entrepreneurship. He was also an avid snow boarder. He met Jeff Overall while in college, and their mutual interest in action sports and business brought them together.
  • Product Design Process. The process of developing products at PolarPro is a little different than at most companies. Austen describes how their Professional Team and other users provide the source of new product ideas. Needs surfaced in the field, oftentimes become the basis of a new product.
  • The Future. Polar Pro will form a strategic alliance with Otterbox to produce accessories for cellular phones. The company will continue to serve the GoPro and drone sectors.  Currently, Polar Pro is working on creating filters accessories for the new DJI Mavic drone and the GoPro Karma drone.
  • Final Comments. Austen hopes customers have a quality experience after using Polar Pro products.

Mentioned Links

Polar Pro Filters
Polar Pro Filters
Polar Pro Drone Accessories
Polar Pro Drone Accessories

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