Australian startup Fleet prepares Series A to fund next 10 satellites

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WASHINGTON — Fleet Space Technologies will begin raising money next week from investors in a Series A financing round after service launch immediately filled its four cubesats with customers.

The Internet of Things (IoT) startup based in Adelaide, Australia, logged 1 million devices in 24 hours, with customer applications ranging from monitoring beehives to oil pipelines, all from space. Another 2 million devices are waiting in backlog, the company said in a news release.

In an interview, Flavia Tata Nardini, Fleet co-founder and CEO, said the company would launch 10 more satellites “tomorrow” if it could. But first it must raise the money to fund construction and launch of the satellites, which it hopes to have in orbit by early 2020.

“Three million connections booked in a few days; it tells that people are really ready to connect,” she said. “And if we don’t connect them, someone else will. So we better serve our customers really fast.”

Fleet has raised $3.8 million in seed money since forming in 2015, and used that to place the first four of an envisioned 100 satellites in orbit in November and December. Two launched on a Rocket Lab Electron rocket, one launched on a SpaceX Falcon 9 and the other on an Indian PSLV.

Cubesat builder Pumpkin Space Systems of San Francisco built Fleet’s satellites around software-defined radios Fleet builds in house.

Tata Nardini said Fleet will need to raise “way more” than its seed total, but didn’t give an exact amount.

Fleet’s IoT service connects customers for $2 per device per year. The company links devices using low power wide area networks, aggregating signals from numerous devices and relaying them through a single terminal on the ground.

Tata Nardini said Fleet is part of the LoRa Alliance, a group with more than 500 members that uses a shared open protocol to connect some 50 million devices. Fleet is not limited to the LoRa protocol, she said, and has talked with French IoT company Sigfox as well. Sigfox has its own standard, and teamed up Eutelsat last year to build a cubesat optimized for IoT.

Tata Nardini said it is difficult to predict how much of the IoT market — much of which uses and will use cellular networks — presents an opportunity for satellite communications, but expects the amount to be “astronomical.” She said, as an example of the potential, that just one of Fleet’s customers projects having 8 million sensors to connect in the coming years.

“The number is huge when you start connecting massive IoT,” she said. “I guess we will figure it out.”