November 2, 2023

40 UNDER 40

St. Louis native and co-founder of aerospace startup WingXpand, James Barbieri has invented and patented a seven-foot expandable drone designed to fit inside a backpack. WingXpand beat out more than 750 companies to win the Army's xTechSearch 7 competition and has secured $2 million in contracts in its first year.

Barbieri started WingXpand with the help of an Arch Grant in 2022 and is backed by national startup accelerator Techstars.

A firm believer in the power of education and practical experience, Barbieri partners with Saint Louis University's Parks College of Engineering, Aviation, and Technology and Washington University's Olin Business School, as well as Ranken Technical College to support local manufacturing.

What is your biggest professional achievement? Taking the plunge to launch WingXpand.

What is your top goal for the year ahead? Watching our customers discover new and creative ways to use our drones to solve immensely important real-world challenges, such as helping keep soldiers safe, farmers grow more yield, and emergency crews triage disasters faster.

How are you involved in the community? I love being involved in the St. Louis startup ecosystem, especially mentoring other founders and prospective founders that are taking the leap. It’s a team sport and we all raise each other up.

What is your secret talent? Pottery

More about James Barbieri

  • Title and company: CEO and co-founder, WingXpand
  • Age: 34
  • Education: Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering and Certificate of Asian Studies, St. Louis University; MBA, Washington University; Master of Science and Technology in Intelligence, National Intelligence University
  • Family: Michelle Madaras (wife); Mariquita and Cecelia Barbieri (sisters); Elizabeth Barbieri, (mother)

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