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Iceye Will Begin Massive Commercial Market Expansion, Says US CEO

By Rachel Jewett | September 22, 2020

Rendering of an Iceye SAR satellite. Photo: Iceye

Iceye brought in $87 million in its Series C funding round, the Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) company announced Tuesday. This funding round is more than double what Iceye raised in previous rounds, bringing its total financing raised to $152 million. The company plans to use this funding round to launch four SAR satellites this year, and an additional eight in 2021. Iceye said this expansion will increase data availability for all continents through 24/7 customer operations, and be used to establish spacecraft manufacturing in the U.S. 

“We really knocked it out of the park on this,” Dr. Mark Matossian, CEO of U.S. subsidiary Iceye US, Inc., told Via Satellite. “We’re not trying to get our first satellite up. We did that years ago and we have five spacecraft years of flight experience, we have customers. This is expansion capital.” 

Iceye, which is based in Finland, has three SAR satellites in-orbit under 100 kg, and has been serving customers since 2018. The company designs, manufactures, and operates its SAR satellites in-house. It delivers imagery to customers via a cloud-based platform, works with value-add resellers like Ursa, and also offers products for specific use cases, like flood monitoring. Iceye serves markets like insurance, utilities, and mining. Tokio Marine, a Japanese multinational insurance holding company is a customer. 

Matossian, who previously worked for Google on the Terra Bella Earth imaging constellation, joined Iceye in February to increase focus on the U.S. market. Matossian said the company’s customer base is about half in the U.S. and half international, and the company is looking to grow its U.S. customer base, and considering manufacturing in the U.S. 

He says the commercial SAR market is on the cusp of a renaissance, as this round of funding moves Iceye into an expansion phase. He expects to see growth in commercial customers like construction companies for remote asset monitoring, industries that haven’t typically looked to satellite data for answers. 

“When we deliver information to our insurance customer, they wouldn’t know what to do with raw radar data, and that’s perfectly fine. We give them a spreadsheet that has all of the properties that they insure, and the water level to the centimeter. That’s actionable information to them — they make decisions on that, they cut checks. For all practical purposes, they don’t even have to know it’s satellite data,” Matossian said. “When we expand the applications for satellites to people that don’t even realize the data is from satellites … then we win. Because the whole industry expands into entirely new areas.” 

He also highlighted SAR’s ability to play a role in combating climate change. Iceye has been able to observe both life cycle events like permafrost melting in Alaska, and disaster events, like the oil spill in the coral reef off the coast of Mauritius, caused by the wreck of cargo ship MV Wakashio in July. 

“There’s really a need for precise infrastructure monitoring for resiliency. There’s a really interesting opportunity to help make our infrastructure more resilient, and detecting very small changes early on so people can react to it,” Matossian said. “It’s going to be really neat to see the different ways that radar satellites can actually help deal with climate change.” 

Iceye’s Series C round included return investors True Ventures, OTB Ventures, Luxembourg Future Fund (LFF), Finnish Industry Investment (Tesi), Draper Esprit, DNX, Draper Associates, Seraphim Space, Promus Ventures, and Space Angels. The funding round is joined by New Space Capital. The European Investment Bank (EIB) invested through its InnovFin For Equity (IFE).