SkyWatch, a Waterloo startup working to make satellite data readily available to companies around the world, plans to double its team by the end of this year after raising CDN$4-million (US$3.2-million) in seed investment.
The funding will allow the four-year-old company – which employs 20 people and has three more starting imminently – to continue developing what it calls “the world’s largest aggregation and distribution platform for satellite data,” making it easy and cost-effective for companies to access Earth-observation information and bring it into their applications.
The round was led by Sinai Ventures and Space Angels, with participation from Golden Venture Partners, Techstars Ventures, SK Ventures, Globalive Capital and ARC Angel Fund.
Housed in the Communitech Data Hub in uptown Waterloo, SkyWatch said in a release that it will use the infusion of funds to make “strategic hires, accelerate product development and build partnerships.” The company is currently negotiating distribution rights with more than 30 satellite operators to provide data to customers in agriculture, energy, finance, infrastructure, market intelligence and other sectors.
“Because Earth observation data has the potential to positively impact everyday life in so many ways, everyone should have the ability to easily incorporate this unique data type into their software applications,” said James Slifierz, SkyWatch CEO and co-founder, but the barriers to doing so have been high. SkyWatch has spent three years building a platform to lower those barriers.
If, say, the Region of Waterloo wanted to use satellite imagery to monitor weekly construction progress along its new ION light rail transit line, it traditionally would have had to approach a satellite data vendor – or several of them – to get images every time they needed them, Slifierz said. The Region would then have to manually import the images into their applications.
The SkyWatch platform, called EarthCache, takes care of those tasks.
“With a few simple lines of code, or a few clicks in our user dashboard, the Region can have these images delivered to them automatically every week, straight into an application,” Slifierz said. “It’s a 15-minute setup – and that includes the time it would take their developer to read through our entire documentation – and the developer will simply be notified whenever a new image that matches their criteria is available.”
SkyWatch is growing in tandem with the market for Earth observation data and services. With thousands of satellite launches planned over the next decade, the European Association of Remote Sensing Companies has projected that market to grow from US$3 billion in 2016 to $15 billion in 2026.
The company has grown steadily and last year took part in Communitech’s Rev accelerator program, which helps startups grow their revenue through sales. In October, it shared a $100,000 prize at Rev Demo Day in Toronto.
Describing the Waterloo Region tech ecosystem as “incredibly rich,” Slifierz said the company’s decision to locate here “has helped us in more ways that one.
“What’s really different about Waterloo is the amount of collaboration between companies,” he said. “It’s much easier to find answers to questions that all startups must ask themselves at some point, from financing, to compliance, to PR, to hiring. You simply hop to the next office or ask your friend at the next-door startup.”
The easy access that comes with the region’s high density of startups “saves us an incredible amount of time and helps us make fewer mistakes, which allows us spend resources on growing even faster.”
Slifierz said time spent talking to other entrepreneurs at local events for startups “is also often just the thing you need to get that ‘lightbulb’ moment” when working out a tough problem.
“And, finally, the region is a hotbed for tech talent, which in a few cases helped us find just the right person for a role without having to relocate them.”
Communitech is a partner of Startup HERE Toronto. This article originally appeared on their site.