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Business News/ Technology / News/  Google leads $36 mn round in Pixxel in India spacetech bet

Google leads $36 mn round in Pixxel in India spacetech bet

With the latest Series B round, Pixxel has raised $68.3 million in total funding so far, including a $25 million Series A round in March 2022, and a $7.3 million seed round the year earlier.

Awais Ahmed, co-founder and chief executive of Pixxel.Premium
Awais Ahmed, co-founder and chief executive of Pixxel.

NEW DELHI:Alphabet Inc.’s Google has led a $36 million round of funding in Bengaluru-based spacetech startup, Pixxel in its maiden investment in India’s spacetech sector.

This follows Google chief executive Sundar Pichai saying at the Google For India 2022 event last December that the company will invest $300 million in homegrown startups.

With the latest Series B round, Pixxel has raised $68.3 million in total funding so far, including a $25 million Series A round in March 2022, and a $7.3 million seed round the year earlier. Accenture, the world’s largest technology services company, also made a strategic investment in Pixxel in August 2022, the size of which wasn’t disclosed.

The size of Google’s investment couldn’t be ascertained. Google didn’t respond to an email query.

Pixxel was the first Indian spacetech startup to raise funds from a global investor when Canada’s Radical Ventures led its Series A round.

Google’s investment is the third instance of an overseas entity investing in a homegrown space startup after Hyderabad-based Skyroot Aerospace raised $50.5 million from Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund GIC in September last year.

In an interview, Awais Ahmed, co-founder and chief executive of Pixxel, said the latest fundraise will give the company “at least three years of runway".

“The first batch of our commercial satellites, through which we will begin offering full-fledged satellite-based imagery and data analytics services to paying customers, is in the final development stages. We expect to be ready with the satellites by the end of this year, and conduct a launch of six of these satellites as part of our hyperspectral imagery constellation by March next year. This will help us commence our services officially by the first half of next year," he said.

Ahmed said Pixxel has more than 50 commercial contracts with customers from government bodies, forestry, oil and gas, and climate monitoring agencies globally. “We expect to draw monthly recurring revenue from our clients starting at the end of first half of CY24, which will further help us expand our runway," he said.

Pixxel counts mining giant Rio Tinto, Australian satellite data imagery and analytics firm DataFarming, Colombian geo-data solutions firm Procalculo, Croatian geospatial data reseller Domidus and US geo-services firm Astraea among its customers.

Google has been investing in Indian startups for several years. It made its first bet in an Indian startup in June 2014 via its investment arm Google Capital in homegrown IT services startup Freshworks (then Freshdesk). Since then, it has invested in startups such as proptech firm CommonFloor, healthtech firm Practo and GirnarSoft’s auto listing platform CarDekho.

The investment in Pixxel is, however, a first for Google in the Indian spacetech sector. The company has notably backed Elon Musk’s SpaceX, partnering with US financial services firm Fidelity to invest $1 billion in the company in January 2015.

Pixxel is also working on building its own ground stations to capture satellite data and process it in-house via a data analytics suite. It plans to offer the processed data to companies worldwide.

“This will help us expand our scope of business, since not every agency or firm would have the means to set-up their own ground stations to draw data. We plan to hire engineers and software developers to build this data analytics suite this year and expand to 200 employees by end-2023 from 120 now," Ahmed said.

Sheetal Bahl, partner at venture capital firm GrowX Ventures, an existing investor in Pixxel and which also took part in the latest round, said Google’s role as an investor in Pixxel could go beyond taking a bet on the company as a spacetech startup.

“For Google, this is likely testing waters. It has taken a number of bets on the Indian ecosystem, but a lot of them have been smaller ones. Here, Google is the co-lead, and it may likely look at Pixxel for its data analytics platform, as well as the use of its high-res satellites in high definition mapping," he said.

Other investors in space startups said Google’s move may open up the sector to larger investments.

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Shouvik Das
Shouvik Das reports on AI, gaming, IT services, science, space and technology policy for Mint. He also writes on consumer technologies and tech-driven cultural experiences for Lounge, Mint's weekend supplement. Every week, he hosts an irreverent weekly podcast, Techcetra. Beyond work, he is passionate about food, music, sports and travel, and is also a hobbyist photographer.
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Published: 01 Jun 2023, 09:52 PM IST
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