Geospatial data startup Near Space Labs raises $13M to launch more autonomous weather balloons into the stratosphere and provide high-resolution imagery
Our Earth’s atmosphere has five major and several secondary layers. From lowest to highest, the major layers are the troposphere, stratosphere, mesosphere, thermosphere, and exosphere. The Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) defines the beginning of space as the Kármán line, which is the recognized imaginary boundary of space at an altitude of about 62 miles.
While tech headlines have been dominated by the news of Elon Musk’s plans to send humans to Mars, this new startup is aiming closer and mapping the planet from close by — sending balloons to the stratosphere, the second layer of our atmosphere which is 7.5 and 31 miles above Earth’s surface.
Near Space Labs was founded four years ago by Rema Matevosyan with the mission to provide timely, wide-scale, commercially available imagery with the largest zero-emission balloon fleet in the stratosphere. Matevosyan grew up in Yerevan, Armenia.
She and her amateur astronomer grandparents enjoyed going outside in the middle of the night, paper map carefully marked, to observe the stars. Now as the founder and CEO of Near Space Labs, her new technology company takes her closer to achieve her childhood’s dream.
Using autonomous robots attached to weather balloons, a contraption it calls the Swifty, Near Space has collected a large amount of geospatial data, capturing up to 1,000 square kilometers of imagery each flight from more than 60,000 feet up. Near Space offers high-resolution imagery up to multiple times per week at down-to-earth prices.
Near Space’s imagery makes it easy to monitor assets and gain remote access overbroad or specific areas. The company also offers cloud-based delivery of fully processed images through its API. It also provides frictionless, imaging for insurance, utilities, infrastructure, conservation, smart cities, retail, energy, government, and disaster response.
Unlike other companies in the geospatial space, Near Space process is cheaper – and carries a much lower carbon footprint – than flying a special plane or launching a satellite, Matevosyan says. But its data sets could prove just as valuable to insurers, governments and disaster recovery, and autonomous vehicle operators alike. To date, the Brooklyn, New York- and Barcelona-based Near Space has completed more than 150 flights, with plans to launch 500 flights in 2022.
Investors have also taken notice of the company’s success and pouring millions of dollars into the four-year-old startup. Near Space is now raising a $13 million Series A funding round led by Crosslink Capital, with participation from Toyota Ventures and existing investors Leadout Capital and Wireframe Ventures.
“We are a very rebellious Earth-imaging company when everyone is launching satellite constellations,” Matevosyan says. “Don’t get me wrong, they’re beautiful devices. But with the rapid adoption of our product and our rapid growth wherever we’ve deployed, it speaks to the dire need for this data that we are providing.”
In a post on Twitter, Leadout Capital Partners also tweeted, “We’re proud to be early backers of the @NearSpaceLabs Space Labs’ mission and thrilled to participate in their Series A round, led by @CrosslinkCap. If you’re interested in joining the team, check out careers with Near Space Labs.”
The latest funding brings the company’s total funding to $16.8 million. Near Space is also looking to boost its staff base and looking to hire more than a dozen roles to expand its customer base across the U.S.