Thursday, February 25, 2016

Toronto Based Kepler Communications Has Local Investors & Seattle Internship

          By Chuck Black

Kepler Communications, a small, Toronto, Ontario based start-up focused on building commercial “off the shelf” satellite re-transmitters (or "repeaters"), will be relocating to Seattle for the next three months.

Jeff Osborne and Wen Cheng Chong, two of Kepler's four co-founders, at the Space Frontier Foundation’s Northeast Regional NewSpace Business Plan Competition (BPC) in New York, NY. As outlined in the October 27th, 2015 press release, Kepler Communications Wins NewSpace Business Competition in Manhattan," Kepler received first place at the event. Photo c/o NewSpace NYC.

As outlined in the February 23rd, 2016 Geekwire post, "Here are the 9 startups in the Techstars Seattle 2016 class," Kepler will join eight other start-ups for an intensive three month internship to hone their solutions at the Seattle based Techstars Seattle accelerator. At the end of the program, they’ll pitch their products to prominent investors at Demo Day on May 18th.

As outlined in the article, the latest Techstars cohort will include startups focused on data analytics, gaming, drones, and other industries with a strong presence in the Pacific Northwest.

According to Kepler co-founder Jeffrey R. Osborne, "we have relocated to Seattle for this program, which is a major boost for us because of the space industry already developed out here. We will be here until the end of the program in May after which we will return to Toronto." 

Osborne and his partners may have good reasons to return to Toronto, According to Osborne, the company has developed a local group of "pre-seed" investors and advisers which include 
  • The York Angel Investors - Several of the approximately 50 or so members of this organization have also provided assistance or contributed funding to Kepler. 

Canada is a latecomer to the idea of funding space activities through the use of traditional venture funding mechanisms. Seen above is a December 3rd, 2013 BBC News panel discussion on investing profitably in NewSpace start-ups with Virgin Galactic founder and chairman Richard Branson (on the left, connecting "via satellite") and Space Angels Network managing director Chad Anderson . As outlined in the February 7th, 2016 post, "2016 Could Be a Big Year for Space: Is Ottawa Paying Attention?," both Branson and Anderson have a decade long history funding NewSpace start-ups in the US and the UK. The Space Angels are even coming to Canada. As outlined in the February 19th, 2016 post "NRC-IRAP Aerospace Sector Team Partners with the Space Angels Network," the National Research Council -Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC-IRAP) aerospace sector team has announced a partnership with the Space Angels to provide value added advisory services to Canadian space technology (CST) small and medium enterprises and serve as an introductory service  for Canadian companies looking to receive funding from Space Angel investors. Screen shot c/o Chad Anderson

Being accepted for Techstars wasn't the only important news for Kepler this year.

As outlined in the January 30th, 2016 Betakit post, "Ontario Centres of Excellence Grants $180,000 to Four Entrepreneurship Hatchery Startups," the company was one of four firms working out of the Entrepreneurship Hatchery, the University of Toronto engineering’s accelerator for student business ventures, to receive funding though the Ontario Centres of Excellence’s (OCE) SmartStart seed fund.

The $30,000 CDN received will be put towards bringing their products closer to market. According to Osborne, Kepler has also served stints with the Ryerson Digital Media Zone (DMZ) and the Toronto based Creative Destruction Lab and received funding from the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies (UTIAS) Start@UTIAS Entrepreneurship Program. According to Osborne:
The Start@UTIAS program originated last year through former Aastra Technologies CEO Francis Shen (who made the initial $1Mln CDN contribution to begin the fund) and I don't think we've publicly thanked them for the initial financial support we received through that program
I think it would mean a lot to them to have that recognition.
A good case can be made that the fund raising route taken by Kepler Communications through a series of public and private incubator and accelerators and past a variety of angel and institutional investors is a template for future commercialization and fund-raising in the space industry.

Chuck Black.
But while this route may not be the easiest or the only route to the top, there's no doubt that, at least for Canada, this new path is well worth exploring.

For those interested in learning more, Kepler Communications was first profiled in the August 31st, 2015 post, "Canadian NewSpace Start-Up to Offer Commercial Satellite Repeaters."

Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Support our Patreon Page