27-04-2021

Why we invested in LiveEO - Satellite data-based asset management for distributed assets

In April 2021 we announced our 5th portfolio company deal, which we are super proud of. Together with btov Partners, DvH Ventures, Motu Ventures and one of the most renowned investors from the Silicon Valley tech ecosystem, we invested €5.25 million to Berlin based LiveEO, a pioneering new space startup that helps asset owners around the globe.

Mikko Huumo

Revolution of the satellite data  

When it comes to space applications impacting everyday life in traditional businesses, it has been quiet after the launch of the first version of GPS. GPS was first used for military application and now everyone is using it. Earth observation satellites were also mainly used for defense and governmental applications and the industry was growing very slowly. Now this is about to change, and the pace is incredible. Partly, this is due to Mr. Musk who has made the new space era very visible to us all but also enabling new satellite launches faster than ever.  

VCs love “hockey sticks”. That is currently happening with satellite earth observation data, which has been growing exponentially during the last five years. It wasn’t long ago when satellites were the size of a bus and building costs amounted hundreds of millions of euros. Today, the smallest ones are the size of a shoe box and costs are in hundreds of thousands of euros (inc. travel ticket to space!).  

When the availability, quality, and price per satellite imagery are getting more attractive and commercially feasible, it is inevitable that we start seeing wonderful innovations around the data and talented people founding innovative companies. But wait, there is more: Automatisation and cloud-based API access have made it possible to provide services in large scale. It was only few years back when even the largest players were not providing APIs to manage large data sets. One could say that cloud technologies and new space technologies enabled LiveEO to do what they do.  

What resonates in LiveEO?  

When young software company is providing annual basis vegetation management for companies like Deutsche Bahn or E.ON, it starts to resonate.  

It’s not too common that the software of a startup is used in various levels in a large corporate organization. But when that happens it tends to be a sticky solution that truly generates value, and above all: causes action in the field that is data driven. After all, that’s what most of the large corporates are seeking from their internal digitalization projects.  

Currently, there’s a great number of managers and field work professionals using LiveEO’s software every day to prioritize where the next vegetation management task should be executed. It’s also exciting to think that LiveEO is monitoring critical infrastructure all around the globe in sub-meter resolution from their Berlin office. If you jumped today on a train somewhere in Europe, LiveEO’s platform might have checked the condition of the railway to make the trip safe and smooth. Just few years back this would have been science fiction.

Why satellite based earth observation matters in the utility sector?  

The electrification of societies will continue, and the dependency of electricity will only increase. At the same time, centralized power production is moving towards distributed, which will not only make energy system more complex, but also increase the requirements to keep the system up and running.  

Super critical assets (renewable generation, storage, distribution network, transformers etc.) will be situated all over the country, including rural areas. Monitoring those assets, noticing changes in the environment, and making prioritized decisions, for example after a severe storm, will become even more important. Would be a shame if electric vehicle couldn’t be charged for many days or the indoor temperature at home is low because the heat pump isn’t working - right?  

In the picture below, you can see a sample of LiveEO’s work where they analyzed the entire US transmission grid, the biggest machine in the world!

I see the timing for LiveEO very promising but I also welcome good competition. Traditional utility businesses aren’t famous for adopting new technologies too fast so there will be plenty of education and persuasion work left to be done.  

Satellite data is somewhat intangible topic for industry experts who have used visual inspections done by people in the field or at most by drones or helicopters. Before, it has taken several weeks or even months to get analyzes from networks, but now it can now be done in a few days or even hours in urgent situations.  

As a part of the due diligence with LiveEO, I had the wonderful opportunity to talk to many asset owners across Europe. The general perception of the possibilities of earth observation still varies a lot, but I was happy to meet ambitious experts, including smaller companies, who are aware of the possibilities. Earth observation from space is equally available regardless of the size and geographical location of your business - LiveEO sees it from the space ;)  

I’m happy to compare notes and share thoughts around earth observation, don’t hesitate to drop a message! Contact me at: mikko@helenventures.fi  


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