This Startup Just Raised $13 Million To Build Satellites-As-A-Service

Artist rendering of Loft's YAM-2 satellite
Loft Orbital

San Francisco-based Loft Orbital, which is launching satellites that can be used by multiple customers for multiple missions, has successfully closed a $13 million Series A funding round that will help it open an office in Boulder, Colorado, focused on aerospace engineering and another office in Toulouse, France, for software development and international sales.

Loft is developing a business of “satellite-as-a-service,” in which it will deploy satellites about the size of a washing machine into orbit that are loaded with different instruments or payloads for its customers. Loft promises customers they don’t have to spend millions to build, deploy or launch a satellite to get the data they’re interested in — the company does that in exchange for milestone payments before launch and as a subscription service afterwards.

“What Loft does is really flipping the script,” says cofounder Alex Greenberg, because it enables its customers to turn an upfront capital expense into an ongoing operating expense.

Loft isn’t the first company to try to have hosted satellite payloads like this, but it’s been a difficult model to make work. “The model that Loft is pursuing has a much greater chance of success because the cost are so much lower and the development timeline is so much shorter,” industry analyst Chris Quilty told Forbes in an email.

The company has believers lined up as both investors and customers. The company has raised over $16 million in its seed and series A rounds, and has already booked five customers for its first satellite, which will launch in the first half of 2020. Those customers include telecommunications company Eutelsat, the government of the UAE, and space cryptocurrency startup SpaceChain. Other customers are lined up for its second and third satellites as well, according to the company.

“One of the things that really took me by surprise is how much traction they had not just from governments but from commercial entities,” says Steve Vassallo, a general partner of Foundation Capital, which led the most recent investment and is also taking a role on the company’s board. Other participants in the round include Uncork Capital, Cendana Capital, Ubiquity VC, Swell VC and GFA Ventures.

The influx of capital, according to the company, will enable it to expand its team and prepare more satellites. Its ultimate vision is that companies will be able to take advantage of space in the same way they can take advantage of cloud services.

“That’s a really key piece of the offering—making space simple,” adds cofounder Pierre-Damien Vaujour. “The same way right now any company can have a website or mobile application without knowing what a server is.”

Correction: An earlier version of this article indicated that the UAE’s space agency was a Loft customer, but it is actually the government of the UAE.

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San Francisco-based Loft Orbital, which is launching satellites that can be used by multiple customers for multiple missions, has successfully closed a $13 million Series A funding round that will help it open an office in Boulder, Colorado, focused on aerospace engineering and another office in Toulouse, France, for software development and international sales.

Loft is developing a business of “satellite-as-a-service,” in which it will deploy satellites about the size of a washing machine into orbit that are loaded with different instruments or payloads for its customers. Loft promises customers they don’t have to spend millions to build, deploy or launch a satellite to get the data they’re interested in — the company does that in exchange for milestone payments before launch and as a subscription service afterwards.

“What Loft does is really flipping the script,” says cofounder Alex Greenberg, because it enables its customers to turn an upfront capital expense into an ongoing operating expense.

Loft isn’t the first company to try to have hosted satellite payloads like this, but it’s been a difficult model to make work. “The model that Loft is pursuing has a much greater chance of success because the cost are so much lower and the development timeline is so much shorter,” industry analyst Chris Quilty told Forbes in an email.

The company has believers lined up as both investors and customers. The company has raised over $16 million in its seed and series A rounds, and has already booked five customers for its first satellite, which will launch in the first half of 2020. Those customers include telecommunications company Eutelsat, the government of the UAE, and space cryptocurrency startup SpaceChain. Other customers are lined up for its second and third satellites as well, according to the company.

“One of the things that really took me by surprise is how much traction they had not just from governments but from commercial entities,” says Steve Vassallo, a general partner of Foundation Capital, which led the most recent investment and is also taking a role on the company’s board. Other participants in the round include Uncork Capital, Cendana Capital, Ubiquity VC, Swell VC and GFA Ventures.

The influx of capital, according to the company, will enable it to expand its team and prepare more satellites. Its ultimate vision is that companies will be able to take advantage of space in the same way they can take advantage of cloud services.

“That’s a really key piece of the offering—making space simple,” adds cofounder Pierre-Damien Vaujour. “The same way right now any company can have a website or mobile application without knowing what a server is.”

Correction: An earlier version of this article indicated that the UAE’s space agency was a Loft customer, but it is actually the government of the UAE.

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