Enlightening conversation with Egbert Oostburg, Co-Founder and CEO of Drone Aviator



Before launching his entrepreneurial career, Oostburg began his military career as a Navy Seaman at the young age of 17. He went on to be awarded an NROTC scholarship through the officer diversity commissioning BOOST program. He has served aboard the USS Connole and USS Constellation (CV-64). He has been a Pacific Fleet Hovercraft Liaison Officer and also a Medical Officer Recruiter. Egbert was inspired to launch his new venture from his service onboard the aircraft carrier USS. Constellation as a bridge officer where he witnessed first-hand how the naval aviator community was a professional group who all loved to fly.

Thanks so much for agreeing to participate in our Veteran’s Leadership Summit. We appreciate you sharing both your military and business leadership journey with our readers. Tell us about your business. What was the inspiration to start Drone Aviator? Who is your ideal customer? What do you do to provide a unique experience for your customers?

Drone Aviator inspiration came from my days serving onboard the aircraft carrier USS. Constellation, CV-64 as a bridge officer. I witnessed firsthand how the Naval Aviator community was a close-knit, professional group who all loved to fly. We created an online drone user social network to help our owners discover places to fly safely, register, and share their flights with their networks.

What had been some of your biggest accomplishments and challenges you’ve faced as the CEO and founder of Drone Aviator?

Validating the business concept and fundraising in a nascent industry have been biggest challenges.  Attracting the caliber of talent on the team and advisory board has been the biggest blessings and accomplishment.

Did you have an advocate that helps advise you and/or champion your efforts to launch and grow Drone Aviator?

Our Chairman of the Advisory Board, Christopher Williams.  Kim Folsom has also played an integral role in the last two quarters as a mentor in her accelerator, Founders First Bootcamp.

Let’s talk about your leadership journey. What was your military experience like before Drone Aviator?

I joined the Navy at 17 as an unrated Seaman E-3. Awarded an NROTC scholarship to University of New Mexico through officer diversity commissioning program, BOOST, commissioned in 1990, with a B.A. in Economics, got into surface warfare community, 1st duty station, fast frigate USS Connole, FF-1056 out of Newport, RI as Boiler Officer, and Main Propulsion Assistant; 2nd duty station, USS Constellation (CV-64), Deck Officer and Officer of the Deck for flight operations; 3rd duty station, Assualt Craft Unit ACU-5, Detachment Officer in Charge, Pacific Fleet Hovercraft Liaison Officer; Navy Recruiting District NRD San Diego, Medical Officer Recruiter.
What positions or career did you hold before founding Drone Aviator? What impact did your military experience have on your career?

Senior Professional Healthcare Representative, Pfizer Pharmaceuticals; Founder and CEO, EJO Group, real estate brokerage firm; Chief Marketing Officer, iNgage Marketing, digital media marketing agency; Executive VP of Inspired Properties, faith-based production company; COO of Destined Media, independent production company. My veteran status was a major driver in my selection status into Pfizer (very competitive to get selected into the sales division) and my training and leadership positions prepared me to tackle any situation I would encounter in my entrepreneurial endeavors.
What motivated you to found Drone Aviator?

The government enacting new laws requiring registration for drone owners.
What type of education and training did you obtain to help with you pursuing your career or business ownership?

MA studies from Villanova University in Project Management and enrolled in the MBA program at Thunderbird School of International Management at ASU.
Describe a great day for you.

Starting off with prayer and meditation, attacking the day to accomplish the 3 major goals outlined at the beginning of the week and ending with a work life balance where I turn off thinking about work and focus my energies on my family of four kids and lovely wife; I don’t always have a great day but recognition of what I want it to be keeps me humble!

Let’s talk about leadership style. How would your direct reports describe your leadership style?
Inclusive, collaborative, direct
How have you leveraged your former military experience in leading your own business?
Utilized proactive situational analysis and decision-making skillsets to identify opportunities in my industries and create plans to capitalize on them.
What is your perspective on the value or benefits of a person with prior military experience on pursuing leadership opportunities within a corporation or an entrepreneurial business?  

I would hire or partner with a former vet without reservation. After the initial “get-to-know-you” period, you can quickly assess skills and ability based on assignments held. Also, former military are trained to work as team members but then take situational control when required, attributes that are challenging to find in the job market.
What strategies and initiatives do you have in place to foster a high performing culture at Drone Aviator?

Stock incentive plan, performance bonus for personal and company benchmarks.

Did you have mentors that helped you in your journey to your current position?

Christopher Williams of Trinity Equity Partners. Don Anderson at Pfizer. Capt Gil Rud, on the USS Constellation, former Blue Angels skipper.
What advice would you give to a young man or women who is leaving military service and has the aspiration of starting a business or obtaining a leadership position in private industry?

Jump in. The water is great on the other side! Companies are not looking for you, they are HUNTING you down and want you to join their teams because of your proven performance, professionalism, and most of all, you proven ability to adapt to change and still perform and complete your mission.
Is there anything you would wish you have done differently on your path to this position?

Listen more, talk less, take massive action to fail faster sooner and find the right path for me.
What message of inspiration or encouragement would you like to share with the attendees of the – Veteran’s Leadership Summit?

“Try and fail, but don’t fail to try” ~ Vinod Khosla

Read our introduction Blog here.


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