SkyWatch: A Platform for All of Earth Observation

Earth Observation (“EO”) is the gathering of information about the physical, chemical, and biological systems of the planet Earth through sensors. In the space industry, we’re investing billions of dollars into launching EO sensors into orbit  to better understand our dynamic planet through the ever-insightful electromagnetic spectrum.

Our mission at SkyWatch is to enable anybody to easily access those sensors so that we can collectively better understand and improve our planet. We bring data from sensors in space to customers all around the world in an effort to enable businesses, applications, and solutions that were never before possible.

We believe EO data will improve the human experience on the same level, if not greater, as the Global Positioning System (“GPS”) has over the last couple of decades. GPS, much like EO, began as a military technology that slowly made a transition into civilian adoption. While there was scepticism at first as to the value of GPS to commercial industries, GPS would grow from obscurity to a $60 billion annual market that supports trillions of dollars of products and services. 

We believe the EO market will floruish similarly to GPS over the coming decades. We envision a thriving global ecosystem with hundreds of businesses conducting satellite operations, ground station management, onboard software processing, mission control software, interlinking communications, raw image processing experts, and the list goes on.

We believe in a world where all of these providers' systems are tightly integrated, offering a value to the world that is far greater than just the sum of its parts.

We believe in making EO imagery affordable and accessible to all.

With that being said, the industry still has a ways to go. GPS grew rapidly thanks to three key attributes. It is accessible, affordable, and standardized. Unfortunately, EO has suffered from being the exact inverse of these attributes. It has been inaccessible, unaffordable, and fragmented. However, it’s hard to blame anyone. Building an EO company historically has been a very difficult endeavour.

Getting to space used to be the hardest part of building an EO company. Luckily, emerging and innovative launch companies have made this increasingly easier year over year. This trend will continue to the point where getting to space affordably and on time will be taken for granted.

Today, the hardest part about building an EO company is acquiring customers and serving them profitably. To do that, there are many things EO companies have to do that don’t involve building, launching, and operating a satellite. Here’s a non-exhaustive list:

  1. Building and/or integrating mission control software.
  2. Building and/or integrating ground stations for uplink and downlink capabilities.
  3. Building and/or outsourcing the processing and calibration of complex data from space sensors.
  4. Building data storage and management capabilities.
  5. Building customer ordering interfaces.
  6. Integrating all of the above together.
  7. Raising equity and/or debt financing to support all of the above.
  8. Convincing prospective customers and suppliers to believe in you before you’ve achieved any of the above.

This is what we call the Undifferentiated Heavy Lifting (“UHL”) of going to market as an EO company. UHL can be defined as the expensive tasks a company undertakes in going to market that provide the company with no competitive advantage or differentiated value. Building a modern EO company is riddled with UHL and it is precisely why companies who expect to be successful still have to raise massive amounts of capital just to get to market.

Building an Earth Observation Company Historically

We, the citizens of this planet, are the biggest losers in this scenario because an expensive go-to-market means fewer companies can compete and when fewer companies compete, innovation stagnates and prices remain high. This should be extremely disconcerting to those who care about the utilization of space for the betterment of our planet. If the accessibility and affordability of this this data is limited to only governments and well-resourced enterprises we will be stifling the limitless innovation that could come from individuals and startups around the world.

Industries thrive when UHL is removed. Take eCommerce, for example. It used to be true that an entrepreneur would have to figure out the following on their own to build a successful eCommerce business:

  1. Build an internet storefront.
  2. Integrate inventory management into that storefront.
  3. Develop shipping logistics.
  4. Find hosting and build scalable infrastructure for the website.
  5. Manage payment transactions.

This meant that starting an online business was only available to those who had access to the capital and vast amount of skillsets required to do all of the above. Shopify saw this as an opportunity. Their Mission Statement:

We help people achieve independence by making it easier to start, run, and grow a business. We believe the future of commerce has more voices, not fewer, so we’re reducing the barriers to business ownership to make commerce better for everyone.”

By removing most of the UHL of building an online business, Shopify has enabled over a million new businesses to grow and flourish. And because of that, you the consumer have had access to more amazing products like never before. The whole economy is growing and everyone is benefiting.

SkyWatch sees a similar opportunity in EO. There are entrepreneurs from all corners of the world and all walks of life with ambitions to build the next great space technology or EO company in their own backyards. And yet, this still remains a privilege to only those with access to the vast amounts of capital required to do so. 

We’ve attacked this problem through our two products, EarthCache and TerraStream. With EarthCache, we are making it easier for those who want to utilize satellite imagery to build new applications and use cases that were never before possible. For those customers, we have eliminated nearly all the UHL of discovering and acquiring EO imagery.

With TerraStream, we are making it easier for companies who dream of building the next great EO company to have a real shot at doing so. For these partners of ours, we are providing a Shopify-like platorm that simplifies all the UHL associated with building out the on-the-ground component on their operations, enabling them to reach customers faster and more profitably.

Together, these products represent a true platform for the Earth Observation industry. And not just one for consumers and suppliers, but one for all of the 3rd-party businesses that exist to serve the Earth observation industry.

We are also building a platform for ground station operators who want access to the most voluminous transfer of data in our market. We are building a platform for mission control software companies who want to power the next generation of satellite constellations. We are building a platform for image processing experts, machine learning aficionados, and all the ecosystem players that have a desire to see Earth observation thrive. If your business exists for the betterment of Earth observation, we want to work with you.

Most importantly, we are building a platform where together the Earth observation industry will be greater than the sum of its parts. An industry that is thriving with millions of participants all over the world, coming together to bring space technology to mass markets for the benefit of humanity.

Building an Earth Observation Company with SkyWatch

The SkyWatch team has made significant progress in a very short period of time.

In 2016, we announced what would later become known as EarthCache, the industry’s first API for commercial satellite imagery. In 2018, we were the first company to automate the processing and distribution of commercial satellite imagery, from an aggregate of unique sensors in space to a Machine-to-Machine application. We’ve leveraged automation to provide customers with the lowest price for satellite imagery in the market from Day One. We’ve lead the industry on usability and accessibility whether that be through our product, our licensing, or our pricing. That leadership will continue to the end of time.

We’ve also figured out a formula for growth that works. The EarthCache customer base, revenue, and data served, are all metrics that are growing at more than 5x Year-over-Year. We expect that rate of unprecedented growth to continue for at least another 12 months. 

Now, with TerraStream, we are the first to market again with another solution. TerraStream exists to help EO companies build profitable businesses. By providing a Shopify-like platform for EO companies to manage and operate their businesses, coupled with access to EarthCache, the fastest-growing market of satellite imagery consumers, we will achieve our goal of removing UHL for the EO companies that will leverage space technology to better our planet.

In June, we announced the first handful of our TerraStream partnerships with SatRevolutionSpaceJLTZ, and Wyvern. These are companies with promising ambitions to capture data that will be valuable to dozens of industries. We love working with these teams because they represent the future of EO. They’re leveraging a maturing ecosystem to build more efficient businesses which will ultimately translate into more affordable data for mass markets. Our goal is to enable every company that launches with us to build a thriving and profitable business. We’re excited to get to work with these ambitious companies.

We also announced our Series B in June. We’re excited to welcome Drive Capital to the SkyWatch family. With great partners and a large amount of cash ready to be used as rocket fuel, the company’s momentum is at an all-time high!

We’re well-prepared to put that capital to work as we have some ambitious goals we wish to achieve in the next 18 months.

On EarthCache, we will catapult from helping hundreds of customers realize new applications and use cases that were never before possible, to helping thousands. We will continue to invest in growing this marketplace so that our TerraStream partners have an unprecedented amount of access to new customers.

With TerraStream, we are aiming to help over a dozen new EO companies launch over 100 satellites by the end of 2022. Additionally, we want to work with over a dozen ecosystem partners in integrating their solutions with the TerraStream platform.

If you’re a company that wants to build a thriving business in EO, we want to work with you. Together, with our partners and our customers, we are building the future of Earth observation. Together, we are improving our planet better than we ever could have done individually.

SkyWatch has created a massive wave of momentum in Earth observation and we want you to ride it with us.

Onwards and upwards!

- James

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