People who are familiar with my blog, might know that I really like BetaFPV products. My first brushless whoop and the whoop that sparked the brushless whoop craze for me, was a Beta75x. Since then I had quite a few BetaFPV products - I especially like their AIO flight-controllers.
As probably many of you, I am interested in how a quadcopter company in China operates. Yannis Yan, one of BetaFPV’s employees responsible for public relations and marketing happily agreed to answer a couple of my questions.
She is one of BetaFPV’s employees that will respond if you ask for support on the BetaFPV Facebook page and who is also heavily involved in the community. She tells me, that she is with BetaFPV for one year now and really enjoys her job.
BetaFPV was founded in 2017 by Mr. Chen Zeli and Mr. Nie Yong. As many tech companies from China, BetaFPV is located in Shenzhen. Shenzhen is a relative young city. As former farm land it has grown to a huge city rapidly after it has been declared a special economic zone.
In 1980 the city had a population of around 59.000 and has grown to more than 10 million people in 2010. Shenzhen is considered the fastest growing city in the history of mankind.
Special economic zones in China have pretty interesting benefits in comparison to the rest of the country: foreign and domestic trade and investment are conducted without the authorization of the Chinese central government in Beijing and there are a lot of tax and business incentives to attract foreign investors.
BetaFPV employs around 70 people. This includes 15 engineers, five product designers and ten people responsible for marketing and public relations.
Of course the company also has their own art designers, administrative personell, financial management, people responsible for the (almost exclusive in-house) production, warehouseman and last but not least employees responsible for testing and quality control.
All those people work directly on premise. BetaFPV is always open for new ideas and are currently looking for more employees and new talents.
Yannis also told me, that almost all engineers and product designers actually fly FPV, but she also mentions that their skills vary vastly. It is really comforting to hear that the people that design our quads also actually can asses if the product is any good. Other companies do not seem to care as much and simply want to push out new products and leave testing to the customers.
Most of the production and assembly happens in house - according to Yannis, everything starting from design to production happens on premise: PCB’s, plastic parts like canopies and frames but also carbon parts are all produced by BetaFPV themselves and are rarely outsourced to different companies. She also tells me that motors are produced in house - I am not sure though if something got lost in translation there…
New products are developed based on customer demand. BetaFPV is looking at what is popular right now and try to supply a matching product to their customers, trying to improve already available designs but also working with people who influence the market - like for example Bob Roogie (KababFpv) - to develop new components.
What was really interesting to me is their turn-around time: A product idea can be realized in 20 - 30 days. From idea to production in less than a month. It might take longer though if custom molds are necessary, but still - pretty impressive.
BetaFPV takes quality control rather serious: First they stress test all their components after they have been manufactured. Then they are sent out to certain people for testing. After that, feedback from those testers is implemented before the final product is manufactured.
For a lot of the tests, they have appropriate test equipment. But bench tests are not enough, they also do testing in real life, flight situations.
Let’s talk $$$
I also asked Yannis about profit margins when selling from their site directly. Obviously she was hesitant to share numbers. But Yannis tells me that their margins are rather low, which considering the size of their operation seems very realistic. They state that they try to use high quality components, they employ quite a lot of people and they aim to provide good after sales support.
In my opinion they have one of the best supports in the game. I seldom had problems with any of their products, but the times I encountered an issue they tried to help and we could always find a solution.
And this all comes at a price.
I was very surprised when I first saw that BetaFPV is selling their products on Amazon and letting Amazon handle the fulfillment, since I know how expensive it is to do so. Yannis told me, that this is purely for customer service - product prices are a bit higher on Amazon, but if the customer needs it quickly he has the option to pay the premium and have the part delivered the next day.
The preferred way to shop with BetaFPV is through their website or your local hobby store. You will almost never find BetaFPV products on Banggood, Gearbest or similar big Chinese e-commerce platforms.
Nothing is perfect and there are always lessons to be learned. I asked Yannis if she would tell me about the worst mistake the company ever made. She told me it was the premature release of the Beta85X. They skipped some tests since they wanted to release the product before the spring festival.
The fallout was pretty severe. A lot of ESC’s burnt out on 4S, some customers even had problems with 3S. BetaFPV tried to help out all customers that were having problems, but it took quite some time until all of this got going, since they first had to return from their spring holidays.
This was a pretty bad event that damaged their reputation in the community severely.
She told me that the company agreed on those three directives after the incident:
- Increase the staff responsible for testing
- Joint liability system: Yannis explains that no one person is responsible when something bad happens, but instead the whole team related to the task “will be punished”.
- No shortcuts in testing - the checklist has to be followed and cannot be overruled by anyone, not even the bosses.
Big thanks to Yannis who took out time of her busy day to answer all of my questions.
If you have any follow up questions, feel free to drop them in the comments and I might compile a second round of interviews.