Satellites/UAVs, computational imaging, artificial intelligence: Lux continues our partnership with Orbital Insight

Last year Lux Capital helped seed Orbital Insight, a geospatial big data company that leverages rapidly growing availability of satellite, UAV and other geospatial data sources to understand and characterize socioeconomic trends at global, regional, and hyperlocal scales. We’re excited to continue our partnership with them as they announce today a $8.7M Series A financing with other investors including Sequoia Capital, Google Ventures, Bloomberg Beta and Citizen.vc. The company will use this financing to grow its engineering team and service clients in finance, retail, real estate, insurance, government, and non-profit sectors.

Orbital Insight’s founder and CEO is Jimi Crawford. Previously he was SVP of Science and Engineering at the Climate Corporation, CTO and Software Architect at Moon Express (a company with the modest goal of putting the first commercial robot on the Moon and winning the Lunar X-Prize), and engineering Director of Google Book Search, where he was in charge of Google’s project to scan, index, and make searchable the world’s books. He knows and understands big data.

The company uses expertise in image processing, neural networks, machine learning, and statistical analysis to glean valuable insights from satellite/drone images and other large geospatial data sets for a diverse body of customers. These customers include financial institutions such as hedge funds, real estate developers, insurance companies, but also government agencies, and international development and environmental non-profit organizations. Orbital Insight is not a traditional image analytics company. It utilizes cutting edge techniques to bring actionable insights to transform very large industries and likes to call what it does ‘macroscopic analysis’. As global tech trends in satellites, drones and other forms of geospatial sensors continue to generate very large data sets (esp. imagery), Orbital Insight’s ‘macroscope’ can help all kinds of companies better understand their industry, context, and future.

Lux Capital has significant experience investing in companies that bring the physical and the digital together. Orbital Insight sits at an interesting intersection of three sectors that we have invested in:

Orbital Insight has multiple data products already being used by customers. For example (a) forecast of end-of-season crop harvest based upon mid-season spectral analysis, (b) quarterly retail performance based upon counting of cars in parking lots, (c) measure of rate of construction in China’s real estate sector, and (d) fluctuations in global crude oil inventories. In each case Orbital Insight provides an accurate assessment/prediction months ahead of other organizations. ROI for the customers is clearly driven by the accuracy timeliness of the insights. (see a WSJ article on Orbital Insight from last year).

Broadly speaking, at Lux Capital we continue to believe that dramatic reduction in cost of distributed sensors/hardware, combined with ubiquitous connectivity and reduced cost of computing horsepower, has allowed new types of data to be produced and harnessed for bringing insights to industries that have otherwise typically operated by looking in the rear-view mirror. The opportunity to transform such industries is a very large one, and we are proud to back Orbital Insight as a pioneer in the space.