Ursa Space Systems raises $7M to turn satellite imagery into business intelligence

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SAN FRANCISCO — Ursa Space Systems, an Ithaca, New York, startup that specializes in gathering data from radar satellites, announced Oct. 25 that it closed a $7 million Series A funding round led by Paladin Capital Group, a Washington-based investment firm.

With the new financing, Ursa plans to expand its customer base for products related to the global oil and gas industry, while continuing to develop the machine vision and machine learning algorithms it uses to create new data products.

Ursa also will use the money to purchase satellite imagery and expand its team of employees who “write novel algorithms to convert the imagery into data and the data into products for customers,” Derek Edinger, Ursa co-founder and vice president of strategic partnerships, told SpaceNews.

Eleven people currently work for Ursa. The company plans to hire 15 more by mid-2018, said Adam Maher, Ursa founder and president.

Ursa’s is the latest in a series of successful funding campaigns by companies that offer analytical data products derived from satellite imagery.

  • Descartes Labs raised $30 million in August.
  • Orbital Insight raised $50 million in May.
  • SpaceKnow raised $4 million in February.

Another player in this field, OmniEarth, was acquired in April by EagleView, a data analytics firm based in Bothell, Washington, for an undisclosed sum.

Edinger said funding flowing into the industry is a sign “there is a real market for our products and an appetite in the venture capital community to invest in them.”

New Enterprise Associates of Menlo Park, California, New York-based RRE Ventures and New York-based S&P Global also participated in Ursa’s latest funding round.

Maher said it was gratifying to see those investors back Ursa and its work to expand the use of space-based data products.

Ursa analyzes data gathered by synthetic aperture radar satellites, which can operate in all light and weather conditions. It pairs the data with information from other sources to give customers, including many who have never before used space-based imagery, products that are easy to understand, Edinger said.

Ursa publishes weekly reports on oil inventories. In May, the company began offering reports on Chinese oil inventories. It added reports on inventories in the Caribbean, Middle East and North Africa in September. In early 2018, Ursa plans to start producing weekly oil inventory reports for the Asia-Pacific, Africa and the Americas.

“Ursa’s weekly measurements enable users to recalibrate their expectations about the current and future conditions of oil supply and demand,” Colin Fenton, Blacklight Research managing partner, said in a statement. “Blacklight has been able to anticipate oil market changes accurately in 2017 as a direct result of utilizing Ursa’s data.”