Satellite imaging firm attracts big VCs to $95m round

Planet Labs raised the Series C capital in a round led by Data Collective and joined by prominent VC firms such as Founders Fund.

San Francisco-based satellite imaging company Planet Labs recently raised $95 million in Series C funding from existing investors.

Data Collective, a local venture capital firm, led the round by investing $70 million. Western Technology Investment, another VC firm, provided an additional $25 million in debt financing.

Other investors include venture capitalists Ray Rothrock and Yuri Milner, the Russian entrepreneur, and notable Silicon Valley-based VC firms Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Capricorn Investment Management, O’Reilly Alpha Tech Ventures, Founders Fund (launched by PayPal’s Peter Thiel), Felicis Ventures, First Round Capital, Industry Ventures, AME Cloud Ventures, Lux Capital and Innovation Endeavors.

“We invested in Planet Labs because we think there is a huge opportunity to provide data 24/7 data on the earth,” Industry Ventures founder and chief executive Hans Swildens told Agri Investor. “One piece of that is agtech, but Planet’s opportunity is much larger than just that vertical.”

Planet Labs designs low-orbit satellites that take pictures of the Earth. Farmers can have access to that data in real time, making it easier for them to monitor their fields and make adjustments appropriately. So far, Planet Labs has launched 73 satellites it calls ‘doves’  into space.

“Leveraging lower cost access to space, businesses like Planet Labs are redefining space as the new frontier of innovation,” said Draper Fisher Jurvetson partner Steve Jurvetson, in a statement.

Since Planet Labs satellites are low-orbit, they are less expensive compared to other satellites and can be deployed faster. One of their drawbacks is that they have shorter lifespans.

Planet Labs raised $13.1 million in Series A in June 2013 and $52 million in Series B in December 2013, bringing the total amount it has raised to date to $160.1 million. Data Collective participated in the first two rounds of funding for Planet Labs.

“Data Collective and Planet Labs have tremendous mission alignment,” said Planet Labs co-founder and chief executive, Will Marshall, a former NASA scientist, in a statement. “We are thrilled that they’ve stepped up in a big way to lead our Series C.”

Data Collective has been active in agtech before; in March 2014 it led a $10m Series A round of funding for agricultural robotics firm Blue River Technology.

Planet Labs spokesman Trevor Hammond told Agri Investor that for now, the company’s focus is on developing its products and if that eventually requires raising additional capital, it will consider it then.

“If we need to raise money in the future, we will consider it at that time,” Hammond said.

Agtech products, which are designed to make a farmer’s job easier, have been getting increasing attention from VC investors recently. Earlier this month, Michigan-based FarmLogs raised $10 million in Series B funding from new and existing investors.

A strategic sale is a likely exit for investors; last June, Google acquired one of the Planet Labs’ competitors, Skybox, for $500 million in cash.

Reporting by Demitri Diakantonis