‘It’s good fun’: Fleet Space CEO has global ambitions after raising $11m from some marquee investors
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Momentum for space-tech startup Fleet Space continues to build after the company announced a new $10.8m capital raise last week.
The Adelaide-based company will allocate the funds towards fine-tuning its network and prepare for the launch of a new round of nano-satellites in 2020.
Apart from being a leading Australian startup in space tech, the company’s latest capital raise stood out largely because some of the names on the investment register.
Horizon Ventures, the private investment fund of billionaire Hong Kong industrialist Li Ka-Shing, was involved, as was Atlassian’s Mike Cannon-Brookes via his private investment company Gronk Ventures.
Founded in 2015, Fleet’s Internet of Things (IoT) platform allows customers to optimise key functions such as real-time data management at lower cost with improved speed.
The product is deployed via the company’s Portal — a long-range hub which processes data using on-ground sensors and nano-satellites in space.
The process is carried out using edge computing — IoT technology which allows for real-time computation at the source where the data is generated.
Speaking with Stockhead, Fleet founder and CEO Flavia Tata Nardini discussed how the company plans to deploy the capital raised from its latest funding round.
It follows an equally busy 2018 when the company also raised capital and launched its first four nano-satellites into space. So what’s it like working at Fleet right now?
“It’s good fun,” Nardini says. “The previous rounds demonstrated a lot of interest in our technology, so we have to keep moving.”
Launching shoe-box sized satellites into space is a complex process, but as with other kinds of tech startups the same rules apply; scale-up is key.
“How nano-satellites work is that you need to get to a point where the design has enough efficiency and reliability to be mass-produced,” she said.
“So this phase is to bring the design into enough efficiency to demonstrate we can connect everything on the platform.”
“It’s an important exercise that requires a lot of fine-tuning of the network. And if that happens the next dream is to start mass-producing — but we need to develop the tech to reach that point.”
At that point, Fleet would have the scale to launch up to 20 nano-satellites into space at a time.
For now, it’s aiming to launch another three or four in 2020 — each of which will be around twice as large as the original round.
While Fleet’s technology has a global application, the incumbent primary industries in Australia means the local market is fertile ground to build out the product offering.
Fleet’s early customer base is geared towards mining and energy, as well as logistics players such as Kennards — which is also a Fleet investor.
“Australia is a continent with core industries such as mining and energy that have serious productivity issues. And they were early adopters of this technology even when we were still fine-tuning it,” Nardini said.
“That’s amazing, and it kind of tells you a lot about how important this technology is and the type of problems we can solve.”
Nardini says IoT technology represents something of a paradigm shift which will change the fundamental structure of how companies operate.
The satellite technology interacts with individual sensors — numbering up to 50,000 for some operations. Customers can optimise efficiency in areas such as long-range data tracking and the operation of heavy equipment via remote control.
“For global companies that need boots on the ground everywhere, we can completely transform the business practices inside these enterprises,” Nardini said.
While it’s still relatively early days, Fleet is revenue-generative from its current customer base and plans to scale up its Portal service via a subscription-based revenue model.
And it’s that potential that has a South Australian startup firmly in the site of global heavyweights in tech and infrastructure.
“If you look at Horizon, that’s a Tier 1 VC fund where the founder has invested internationally in ports and power networks. They’re backing Fleet because they understand how this is going to change the enterprise business solution,” Nardini said.
“These are entrepreneurs who see that they can benefit from the change that IoT’s bringing. So to get that approval from people who own enterprise businesses is amazing.”