Silicon Valley doubles down on Planet Labs’ nano-satellites with $95m investment

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Planet Labs, which operates the largest fleet of earth-imaging satellites, has announced the first closing of their $70 million Series C, with continued backing from some of the biggest VCs in Silicon Valley including the Data Collective, Yuri Milner, DFJ, Capricorn, OATV, Founder Fund, Felicis Ventures, First Round, AME Cloud Ventures, Industry Ventures, Innovation Endeavors, Lux Capital, Ray Rothrock (Venrock GP). Western Technology also threw their hat into the ring with a $25 million debt financing.

Zachary Bogue, Data Collective’s co-Managing Partner, will join the board of Planet Labs. “The Planet Labs team has driven their company from a brilliant idea in a garage to one of the world’s top ten overall space powers in less than three years, with customers, revenue, and technological advantage commensurate with that position.”

This financing comes in the wake of Planet Labs’ successful launch of 73 satellites into space and the recent hiring of Tom Barton as its Chief Operating Officer. Mr. Barton was formerly CEO of Rackable Systems (now SGI) and boasts over 25 years of experience managing and advising hardware and software companies.

“Data Collective and Planet Labs have tremendous mission alignment,” says Will Marshall, CEO of Planet Labs. “We’ve gotten to know Matt and Zack well and they’re adding a lot of value. We are thrilled that they’ve stepped up to lead our Series C.”

“We’re proud that Planet Labs will be our first investment in the DCVC Opportunity Fund, which supports the truly exceptional growth-stage companies in DCVC’s portfolio,” said Matt Ocko, co-Managing Partner of Data Collective. “The Planet Labs team has driven their company from a brilliant idea in a garage to one of the world’s top ten overall space powers in less than three years, with customers, revenue, and technological advantage commensurate with that position.”

Planet Labs provides leading global companies with access to its data. “I am excited to join this talented team that is revolutionizing image availability,” said Tom Barton, COO of Planet Labs. “We’re now delivering data to customers, such as Woolpert, Geoplex, and others, and are actively seeking new partnerships.”

At least one observer has questioned how valuable these first generation of nano-satellites will be for agriculture. The Daedalus Engineering blog reported that the Planet Labs’ sensor only has a resolution (GSD) of 2-5 meters and no multispectral capabilities and that “The prerequisite for technology to solve agriculture mapping problems, for example, is multi-spectral capability in the sensor. If you do not have such capability the only parameter you can measure is distance.  Most agricultural work is out of scope in this instance.”

Planet Lab’s main competitor Skybox, was acquired by Google in June of 2014. Skybox had their own heavyweight backers which included Asset Management Ventures, CrunchFund, Canaan Partners, Norwest Venture Partners, Khosla, Bessemer and Draper & Associates

Planet Labs launched two more satellites into space on January 10 on board a SpaceX rocket. “Planet Labs is on its way to becoming the next great commercial space company,” said Steve Jurvetson, partner at DFJ and Board Member of Planet Labs, SpaceX, and Tesla. “Leveraging the lower cost of access to space, businesses like Planet Labs are redefining space as the new frontier of innovation.”

For those that are interested, Planet Labs is also hiring an Account Executive for their Agriculture business to help source, structure, and guide Planet Labs’ early direct sales..

 Have news or tips? Email rob@agfunder.com

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