Google Leads $36 Million Funding Round for Indian Space Startup Pixxel

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Indian space startup

Bengaluru-based satellite-image startup Pixxel has secured a significant investment of $36 million in a funding round led by Google, marking a major development in the Indian space sector. This investment comes after the Indian government launched its privatisation policy for the space industry in April. Pixxel, established in 2019, is focused on building a constellation of satellites capable of analyzing spectral signatures in images to identify mineral deposits and assess crop productivity.

Pixxel has already attracted prominent clients, including miner Rio Tinto Ltd and Australian agritech company DataFarming. The startup has raised over $71 million from investors such as Accenture PLC, although the specific investment amount from Google and the resulting valuation were not disclosed.

Founder and CEO Awais Ahmed expressed confidence that Pixxel would become the most valued space tech company in India following this investment. Previously, the title was held by rocket and launch provider Skyroot Aerospace, valued at approximately $163 million according to startup tracker Tracxn.

Ahmed highlighted the alignment between Pixxel’s satellite data work and Google’s activities in agriculture and environmental sectors, as well as their existing Google Earth platform, as factors that attracted Google to invest in the startup.

The Indian space sector has witnessed increased interest from private companies since the government’s announcement of the private-sector space policy framework. This has created opportunities for startups to offer services such as broadband connectivity (similar to SpaceX’s Starlink) and supply chain tracking applications.

The funding round for Pixxel comes at a challenging time for startups globally, as they face difficulties in raising funds. Space startups, in particular, have faced additional pressure following the bankruptcy of Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit launch company.

Pixxel plans to utilize the funding to expand its satellite network. The startup is preparing to launch six additional satellites next year, complementing the three satellites it currently operates. Additionally, Pixxel aims to hire more engineers for its analytics team.

Awais Ahmed was inspired to launch a space startup after visiting Elon Musk’s SpaceX during a student competition to build a demonstration “hyperloop” transport pod. Alongside co-founder Kshitij Khandelwal, they set out to develop an AI model that could leverage satellite data to predict crop yields, detect illegal mining, and monitor natural disasters.

Pixxel’s unique approach involves hyperspectral imaging, where its satellites capture and analyze a broad spectrum of light rather than just assigning primary colors to each pixel. This advanced technology enables Pixxel to provide more detailed and comprehensive satellite imagery compared to existing commercial satellite images.

With Google’s substantial investment, Pixxel is poised to make significant advancements in its satellite network and analytical capabilities. This partnership between a pioneering space startup and a tech giant like Google has the potential to drive innovation in the Indian space sector and propel Pixxel to new heights.