Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Kepler Communications Raises $5Mln in Venture Funding

          By Brian Orlotti

A Toronto-based startup seeking to build an orbital network of low-cost nano-satellite re-transmitters has raised $5Mln USD ($6.4Mln CDN) in venture capital funding.

The Kepler team at the University of Toronto Hatchery on September 10th, 2015. From left to right: Stephen Lau, Mina Mitry, Jeffrey Osborne, Mark Michael and Wen Cheng Chong. Photo c/o Roberta Baker.

Kepler Communications seeks to fill two projected needs:
  • As firms like SpaceX and OneWeb work to build their own satellite networks to provide global internet access, they will be faced with periods of intermittent connectivity when not close to ground stations. Kepler’s system would serve as an orbital network backbone, enabling various satellite networks to talk to each other in orbit rather than routing their traffic via ground stations (which increases network delay and congestion). Kepler’s network would be analogous to the high-speed internet backbones used by terrestrial providers which link different internet exchange points and sub-networks across the globe.
  • Kepler seeks to become a key service provider for the emerging machine-to-machine (M2M) communications (the so-called ‘internet of things’) market both on Earth’s surface and in orbit. M2M encompases such things as embedded sensors in buildings and vehicles to agricultural monitoring to RFID/GPS tracking of shipping containers and much more.
As outlined in the August 9th, 2016 BetaKit post, "Kepler Communications Raises $5 Million Seed Round to Develop In-Space Telecommunications Network," the company plans to use its newly acquired funding to launch its satellites and begin service in 2017.

Kepler Comunications grew out of the Start@UTIAS entrepreneurship program at the University of Toronto’s Institute for Aerospace Studies (UTIAS). Established with a $1Mln CDN donation by UTIAS alumnus and Canadian telecom industry veteran Francis Shen, the Start@UTIAS program aims to encourage UTIAS graduate students to establish startup firms. Kepler received $25,000 CAD in initial funding from Shen via Start@UTIAS.

Kepler then launched at the University of Toronto’s ‘Entrepreneurship Hatchery,’ where they won the $20,000 CDN Lacavera Prize in September 2015. Kepler then cycled through two more Toronto-based tech incubators, Ryerson University’s Digital Media Zone and The Rotman School’s Creative Destruction Lab, before joining Techstars Seattle in February 2016.

As outlined in the February 25th, 2016 post, "Toronto Based Kepler Communications Has Local Investors & Seattle Internship," Kepler has also assembled a core group of Toronto-based investors and advisers, including:
  • Samer Bishay - A former systems engineer at MacDonald Dettwiler (MDA), who moved on to become the president of northern telecommunications provider Ice Wireless, wholesale VoIP service provider Iristel and upstart wireless carrier Sugar Mobile.
  • Tony Lacavera - Founder of Wind Mobile (Canada’s fourth-largest wireless carrier) and Chairman of Globalive Holdings (a privately held Canadian telecom and investment firm).  Lacavera was formerly Chairman of the Board for NewSpace satellite imagery firm UrtheCast.
  • The York Angel Investors - A Markham, ON-based group of private investors. Several of this organization’s approximately 50 members have provided assistance or contributed funding to Kepler.
Brian Orlotti.
Kepler Communications is an attempt, through founding infrastructure, to stake a Canadian claim to the opening space frontier.

It is also a hopeful sign that Canadians can remain pioneers when we choose to.

Brian Orlotti is a regular contributor to the Commercial Space blog.

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