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Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Pixxel: Google leads funding round for Indian space company Pixxel

BENGALURU: Alphabet Inc’s Google Leads $36 Million Round of Funding for Bangalore-based Pixxela satellite imaging startup, in the first major investment in the Indian space sector since the government launched its privatization policy in April.
Pixxel, founded in 2019, is building a constellation of satellites that have the ability to identify mineral deposits or crop productivity by analyzing the spectral signature of an image.
Miner Rio Tinto Ltd and Australian agricultural technology company DataFarming are clients, Pixxel said.
The startup has raised over $71 million from investors, including Accenture PLC. Pixxel did not specify the assessment it reflected.
Google said it had made the investment in Pixxel through its India Digitalization Fund, which focuses on investing in India-based startups.
Founder and CEO Awais Ahmed said that Pixxel would be “India’s most valuable space technology company after this investment.”
That had been rocket and launch provider Skyroot Aerospace, valued at an estimated $163 million, according to Tracxn, which tracks startups.
“We work with satellite data and Google works a lot around that with agriculture and the environment,” Ahmed told Reuters. “They also have Google Earth…so a combination of that led them to see a benefit.”
Pixxel is among many private companies seeking a boost since India opened up the space sector, encouraging startups to provide broadband services like Starlink and power applications like supply chain tracking.
The government announced its private sector space policy framework in April.
The funding comes at a time when start-ups around the world have struggled to raise funds. Space startups, in particular, have come under pressure after the bankruptcy of Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit launch company.
Ahmed said the funds would be used to build his satellite network. Pixxel is preparing six satellites for launch next year to add to the three it has now and is looking to hire more engineers for analysis.
Ahmed has said that he was inspired to launch a space startup by a visit to Elon Musk. spacex as part of a student competition to build a demonstration “hyperloop” transport capsule.
He and co-founder Kshitij Khandelwal set out to build an AI model that could use satellite data to predict crop yields, detect illegal mining, and track natural disasters.
They launched Pixxel when they concluded that existing commercial satellite images did not provide enough detail. Pixxel’s satellites collect and analyze a broad spectrum of light rather than simply assigning primary colors to each pixel, a technology known as hyperspectral imaging.

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