Lightspeed leads seed funding in space-tech startup Pixxel
Kshitij Khandelwal (left) and Awais Ahmed

Pixxel, a Bengaluru-based space-technology startup which builds nano-satellites, has raised $5 million (Rs 37 crore) in its seed round of funding led by venture capital firm Lightspeed India Partners.

Early-stage investment firms Blume Ventures, growX Ventures and Inventus Capital India also participated in this round, the company said in a statement.

Ryan Johnson, former president at Planet Labs, one of the largest satellite imaging companies in the world, also invested in his personal capacity and will be joining the company's board of directors.

Pixxel will use the capital to hire more people and strengthen the technology towards the deployment of its satellites.

“Our satellites will bring down the benefits of space down to earth and help us see the unseen through a unique dataset that offers an unprecedented level of detail,” said Awais Ahmed, CEO at Pixxel.

The startup was founded in 2018 by BITS Pilani alumni Ahmed and Kshitij Khandelwal. It claims that its constellation of earth-imaging small satellites will provide global coverage every 24 hours for tackling some of the world’s most pressing problems. The first satellite is scheduled to be launched towards the end of this year on a Soyuz rocket.

“With COVID-19, we are seeing imagery demand shift even faster away from drones and airplanes to satellites. Their platform-centric approach to satellites, payload, data and associated AI-led analytics is one of the boldest and most comprehensive we have seen,” said Hemant Mohapatra, partner at Lightspeed India.

The company had raised $700,0000 in pre-seed funding from Techstars, growX ventures and others in June 2019.

The fresh investment in the firm is indicative of the growing interest in space-tech startups. While marquee names such as Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin have captured global attention, several smaller outfits have also attracted investor interest for their product approaches and technological portfolio.

In May this year, for example, VestaSpace Technology Pvt. Ltd, which operates a space-technology startup focussed on providing small and medium businesses with access to satellites, raised $10 million from Next Capital, a US-based investment management and advisory services firm.

In June 2019, the Indian Institute of Science-incubated Bellatrix Aerospace raised $3 million (around Rs 21 crore) in a pre-Series A funding round led by IDFC-Parampara, StartupXseed, Karsemven Fund and Survam Partners, the family office of Suman Kant Munjal.

TeamIndus has attracted angel investments from the likes of Tata Sons’ Ratan Tata, Infosys co-founder Nandan Nilekani, Flipkart founders Sachin Bansal and Binny Bansal, Sasken Communications' Raji Mody and TVS Group's Venu Srinivasan.

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