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Nicholas Horbaczewski of Drone Racing League Cartoon

As a bold leader, Horbaczeswski has challenged the status quo and made a sport for drone enthusiasts.
The Drone Racing League has become a strong source of sports broadcasting content thanks to founder Nicholas Horbaczewski.

The Drone Racing League Continues to Re-Invent the World of Sport

What do NASCAR, Grand Prix Formula 1 Racing, and NHRA drag racing all have in common? Speed! From a sports spectacle perspective, fans love to watch drivers accelerate to awe-inspiring speeds while navigating an array of challenges. But in today’s world of advanced recreational technology, a newcomer has arrived. Racing Drones has captivated millions of fans and combines first-person gaming with formula 1 racing – a perfect combination for millennials. And no one does it better than Drone Racing League (DRL). Driven by the Bold Leader Nicholas Horbaczewski and his passion and genius, Drone Racing League is growing by leaps and bounds. And, he is creating societal change with drones while building a new generation of pilots

But racing drones is not all this bold company has in mind and this article is a follow-up to our article from last year.

A Snapshot of Professional Racing Drones

Drone Racing League was founded in 2015, with the first world championships held the following year. Tapping into a crazed field of enthusiasts, the league quickly captured a viewership of over 100 million viewers its first two years. Today, Drone Racing League continues to expand its reach and is seen in over 90 countries. In fact, the 2018 DRL Allianz World Championship held in Saudi Arabia boasted over 55 million views.

And what’s not to like? With drones capable of going from zero to 100 mph in two seconds, they have the speed we crave. In addition, courses demanded harrowing maneuvers, complete with 130-foot nosedives and the kinds of twists and turn impossible in manned aircraft.

It’s little surprise Millennials and techies alike are flocking to the sport, both as would-be competitors and spectators. Drone Racing League combines sports, entertainment, and technology in an intriguing way no sport has ever done before. In 2019, the sport will break new ground with the addition of AI enabled self-driving drones.


Pushing the Boundaries of Sports Leagues

Certainly, racing drones is exciting. Those bold enough to compete spend hundreds of hours sharpening their skills. But that’s not necessarily any different from other sports. What is notably different, however, is the way Horbaczewski has expanded the company.

Drone Racing League is among the first to offer in-house digital advertising campaigns for its sponsors. For some companies, this is a game-changer. This is not something other premiere sports leagues have pursued.

As a result, Drone Racing League recently gained Cox Communications as one of its advertising clients. Rather than simply pursuing brand alignment and ad promotions, Drone Racing League offers full advertising campaign development. The new Cox ad campaign combines an array of content that is much more comprehensive. In addition to sponsoring one of DRL’s premier drone racers, Cox provides Wi-Fi services for DRL championships. Likewise, the campaign includes Cox’s 4-D Thrill Rides for fans on-site, allowing them to experience racing drones themselves.


Maintaining a Bold and Broad Perspective

In addition to Cox Communications, Swatch has also signed up with Drone Racing League. Drone Racing League also enjoys widespread international coverage of its series from ESPN, FoxSports Asia, Sky, and many others. But these pursuits are just the beginning with Horbaczewski, as he envisions other opportunities for the future.

One of these visions includes advancing the use of artificial intelligence to develop autonomous racing drones.


Drone Racing League will be sponsoring the Lockheed Martin AlphaPilot Innovation Challenge in the near future. In this racing drone event, teams of university students will compete for a $2 million prize. The requirements? Teams must use an AI platform to create drones that drive themselves. If Cox Communications saw an opportunity with Drone Racing League now, imagine what other companies may see with these developments.

A New Champion is Crowned

With the 2018 Drone Racing League championship recently completed, a new face has appeared in the sport. Paul “Nurk” Nurkkala, a 27-year old from Indianapolis, IN, took the prize from veteran Jordan “Jet” Temkin. Putting in more than 10 hours a day, Nurk developed the level of skill needed to be named the best in the world.

It’s no surprise that Horbaczewski appreciates that level of dedication. Given Drone Racing League’s bold moves in the sports entertainment industry, great things likely await this company as well.

Bold Leader Spotlight: Nicholas Horbaczewski, Founder and CEO of the Drone Racing League

In 2015, something happened that would change Nicholas Horbaczewski’s life. The Oxford and Harvard Business School-trained executive had been driving the financial success of adventure sporting events company Tough Mudder. But in a field in Long Island, NY, something got his attention… drone racing. Today, Horbaczewski has taken the company he founded, Drone Racing League, to incredible heights. Not only has he attracted millions of spectators to drone racing, but he has reinvented sports as we know it. In fact,  Horbaczewski is boldly leading the way in showing what all sports in the future may look like.

For his willingness to challenge the status quo, as well as his management style grounded firmly in empowerment and inclusion, Horbaczewski deserves this week’s Bold Leader spotlight.

As a bold leader, Horbaczeswski has challenged the status quo and made a sport for drone enthusiasts.
The Drone Racing League has become a strong source of sports broadcasting content thanks to founder Nicholas Horbaczewski.

Drone Racing League’s Rise Under Bold Leadership

Horbaczewski founded Drone Racing League in 2015 after watching an amateur, homemade-drone racing event in New York. What he saw intrigued him. Drone racing seemed to have all the necessary criteria for a traditional sport. It involved human competition. It was an actual live event with physical challenges. And it created excitement and visceral emotions among spectators as the drones raced, crashed or performed incredible maneuvers. Not only did it have these features, but it was also high-tech, semi-virtual, and used really cool drones!

He likes to describe Drone Racing League as a cross between Star Wars and Formula 1 Racing. He also likes those who call Drone Racing League events a real-life video game. Regardless of the exact moniker, Horbaczewski has quickly established the Drone Racing League as a premier sporting event company.

More than 55 million tuned in to see the 2018 Drone Racing League championships this year in over 90 countries. Given such early success, it’s hard to imagine where Horbaczewski will go from here.

“We didn’t set out to be a tech company, we thought we’d be able to get off-the-shelf technology that would solve all of these problems and we discovered after an exhaustive search that there was none…” – Nicholas Horbaczewski

Bold Risk-Taking and Challenging of the Status Quo

Getting Drone Racing League off the ground wasn’t easy. Horbaczewski immediately faced serious challenges, with the largest being drone technology itself. The commercially available drones were not necessarily capable of performing in race-like situations. And having pilots make their own drones could quickly become a contest in robotics rather than drone racing skills. So what did Horbaczewski do?

He acquired drone design and manufacturing company, Dronecraft. Today, Drone Racing League designs and builds every drone its pilots use to compete.

The risk in bringing everything in-house with drone design was just the beginning. Since then, Horbaczewski has developed Drone Racing League’s own advertising division. This aspect of Drone Racing League permits the company to create comprehensive ad campaigns for companies centered on the sport. And with the vast amount of entertainment content creation, Drone Racing League has many interested parties. No other sports league in the world has approached sports in this fashion. But for Horbaczewski, pushing the envelope is simply something that has to be done to maintain that competitive edge.

Confidence Tempered with Empowerment and Inclusion

There is no lack of confidence with Horbaczewski. But the type of confidence he demonstrates is not the kind that comes with a big ego. Even after Drone Racing League was touted as the “future of sports,” the label didn’t go to Horbaczewski’s head. Instead, he pondered exactly what the phrase might mean and how Drone Racing League might continually advance. In other words, Horbaczewski balances confidence with a healthy dose of humility in developing a perpetual competitive advantage.

This type of humility is common among bold leadership. For Horbaczewski, it allows him to gain the most out of those around him. He regularly calls investors to ask for their participation in the Drone Racing League’s future. Likewise, he visits drone design teams and collaborates with his executive team weekly. These efforts, combined with trips all over the world to meet competitors, advertisers, and broadcasters, highlight his efforts to include everyone in hashing out innovation.

“We keep pushing ourselves at DRL for continuous innovation because what’s culturally relevant is always evolving, so we need to be always evolving as well.” – Nicholas Horbaczewski

Bold Leadership with a Sense of Social Responsibility

Without question, Drone Racing League links technology, sports, and entertainment. Younger generations of sports fans are increasingly intrigued by the integration of technology into existing experiences. This blending of the digital with the real is what has driven the Drone Racing League’s tremendous growth and success. But younger generations, as well as older ones, also have additional concerns regarding social responsibility. From football concussions to disabling race car crashes, traditional sports have their fair share of moral hazards.

For Horbaczewski, one major benefit that Drone Racing League provides is a lack of this moral concern. While a drone crashing into a wall at 80 mph is exciting and shocking, the pilot remains unharmed. Yet still, the drone pilot’s skills are being tested in an actual physical field of competition. Horbaczewski foresees this as the wave of the future for sports. With opportunities to increasingly combine technologies and real-world competition, sports have the chance to be more relevant to modern viewers. At the same time, they can use more socially responsible technologies in the process.

“The amount of the carnage that goes on when you’re slamming into walls at 80 mph when you miss a turn — it’s exciting. But there’s no moral hazard like there is when there’s a crash in an auto race.” – Nicholas Horbaczewski

A Truly Bold Leader in the Future of Sports

It’s of little surprise that Horbaczewski has been recognized as one of today’s boldest leaders. In addition, to being cited as being among the world’s fifty most daring entrepreneurs, he has received numerous accolades. His unique combination of risk-taking, confidence, humility, and social responsibility fuels Drone Racing League’s success.

And at the same time, it fosters essential innovations and the empowerment of others critical to the company’s future. Will Drone Racing League be the future of sports? The answer has yet to be revealed. But odds might be pretty good with Horbaczewski being the lead pilot.

The Bold Leader Spotlight: Nicholas Horbaczewski, Founder and CEO Drone Racing League (DRL)