US ground station startup RBC Signals has raised US$1.5m in its seed round to develop a LEO-focused system that leverages existing networks.
Investors in the Seattle-based company include Baidu Ventures, Bee Partners, Comet Labs, GGV Capital, MxSpace, Social Capital and other unnamed organisations, cofounder and CEO Christopher Richins (pictured) said.
Baidu is based in China, MxSpace is in Mexico and others are in Singapore and the Middle East, as well as the US. RBC, which did not have advisers, closed the round last month.
The company, which has more than 30 antennas in over 20 locations worldwide, will use the funding to expand its network of ground stations and to conduct demonstrations of its data-delivery services. It currently has stations in North America, the Caribbean, Europe, Africa and Asia, operating in the UHF, S, X and Ka-bands.
RBC is generating revenue after winning its first customer in September, Richins said, but he declined to reveal the figure.
Driven by data-consumption trends requiring higher bandwidth, higher resolution and on-demand immediacy, RBC leverages the infrastructure and excess capacity of existing ground stations to provide real-time data delivery and data-processing capabilities, with a focus on providing low latency services to the emerging class of commercial satellite operators.
“We are the first and only provider in our sector using a shared economy model to leverage existing ground station infrastructure to deliver and process real-time data,” Richins said.
Customers use RBC’s platform to schedule support passes on its network of ground stations. If an antenna is available, the pass is scheduled. Data is delivered to the customer via the RBC platform in the cloud.
Competitors include incumbent ground data providers, such as Norway’s Kongsberg Satellite Services (KSAT) and Swedish Space Corp, Richins said.
In June Italian startup Leaf Space raised €1m (US$1.1m) to commercialise the first six of 20 planned ground stations that will be dedicated to serving small satellites.
Richins said he founded the business with Chief Strategy Officer Olga Gershenzon because they saw that a segment of the industry was not being served. The excess capacity available at ground stations could be used to lower the cost of data delivery between LEO and Earth.
Looking ahead, RBC could launch a series A funding round in 2018, Richins said, but it is too early to name a fundraising target.
Richins has worked for companies in commercial space that include Sea Launch, SpaceX (as an intern) and Planetary Resources. Gershenzon co-founded SCANEX, a Russian company in the satellite remote-sensing market. Rani Hellerman is vice president of international business.