Friday, February 02, 2018

SkyWatch Raises $4Mln CDN Seed Round: UrtheCast Still Putting Together Deal for UrtheDaily Constellation

          By Henry Stewart

Here are two quick stories to remind us of two important things. First of all, the Earth imaging industry is in the midst of splitting off from its space based spy-satellite origins to become a large and profitable, commercial industry in its own right. Secondly, real innovation and commercialization efforts are being pushed in Canada by a variety of innovative "apps contests" and challenges, not just private sector venture capital markets, although government funds and contracts remain important to bolster private sector confidence.

To begin with, and as outlined in the January 31st, 2018 UrtheCast press release, "UrtheCast Provides Update on UrtheDaily Financing Efforts,"  Vancouver, BC based geospatial company UrtheCast, "is continuing to work" with unnamed institutional investors "to close the previously announced financing for the UrtheDaily Constellation."

UrtheCast investors have been closely watching the fundraising for the planned $175Mln CDN constellation.

As outlined in the December 29th, 2017 UrtheCast press release, "UrtheCast Provides Corporate Update," the company was "working closely" with an institutional investor "to finalize closing documentation as soon as practicable, with a target completion date for the financing extended to the end of January 2018."

The UrtheDaily Constellation, currently scheduled for launch in 2020 is a planned "global coverage constellation aiming to acquire high-quality, multispectral imagery, at 5-m GSD, taken at the same time, from the same altitude every day" according to the UrtheDaily website.

According to Gunter's Space Page, the UrtheDaily spacecraft "are based on the SSTL-250 platform and will be built by SSTL at its facilities in Guildford UK. The contract was signed in November 2017. The spacecraft will deliver high-resolution imagery using spectral bands, which have been specifically selected to match Landsat-8, Sentinel-2, RapidEye and Deimos-1 bands to ease cross-calibration with trusted references and to minimize the effects of atmospheric variations."

Initial funding for the constellation was announced in March 2017 through the Federal Innovation, Science and Economic Development’s (ISED) Industrial Technologies Office, which granted the UrtheCast approximately $17.6Mln CDN under the Strategic Aerospace & Defense Initiative (SADI) program.

Since then, the company has attempted to complete the package with private sector funding.

UrtheCast has traditionally raised capital using a variety of techniques common in the Canadian telecom and mining sectors. As outlined in the June 10th, 2013 post, "UrtheCast Proceeds with Takeover and Funding for ISS Camera's," the company initially went public as part of a reverse takeover of publicly traded Longford Energy Inc., a methodology well understood in the mining industry.

But at least one other company has managed to put together private sector funding.

As outlined in the February 1st, 2018 Skywatch Space Applications press release, "SkyWatch Raises Seed Financing of $4M CAD [$3.2M USD] to Bring Satellite Data to the Mass Market," the Waterloo, ON based start-up has raised $4Mln CDN in seed funding to continue the development of its EarthCache platform for the aggregation and distribution of open sourced Earth image satellite data.

The financing was led by Sinai Ventures and Space Angels, with participation from Golden Venture Partners, Techstars Ventures, SK Ventures, Globalive Capital, and ARC Angel Fund.

According to the press release, "The fundraising proceeds will be used to add strategic hires, accelerate product development, and build partnerships. SkyWatch is currently negotiating distribution rights with more than 30 satellite operators to service customers across agriculture, energy, finance, infrastructure, market intelligence, and many other industries."

As outlined in the May 19th, 2014 post, "CDN "SkyWatch" wins "Best Use of Data" at Int'l Space Apps Challenge," Skywatch first gained attention at the 2014 International Space Apps Challenge.

Henry Stewart is the pseudonym of a Toronto based aerospace writer.

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