NICK MANES -- February 09, 2020
Farmington Hills firm leads with $5M investment
Funding comes at time of increasing number of satellites in orbit
Further investment into company is likely
Space will be the next frontier for a Southeast Michigan venture capital firm. Farmington Hills-based Beringea LLC announced that it led a $5 million investment round into a northern Michigan firm focused on equipment used for analyzing and processing data collected from satellites in space.
The capitalization into Traverse City-based Atlas Space Operations Inc. comes as executives say there's increasing need for investment in the burgeoning industry of space exploration and as more satellites are launched and send data back to Earth.
"You talk about weather, military defense, general earth observation, there's a need for real-time communication," said Beringea Vice President William Blake. "There's frankly a need to get this data down to earth. When you see the cost of launch and satellite construction being reduced, ground infrastructure is kind of the next segment of the Space 2.0 industry."
Space 2.0, Blake said, refers to the emergence of companies like Elon Musk's Space X and the increasing commercialization of space exploration and has been touted by space historian Rod Pyle. Terms of Beringea's investment into Atlas and its co-investors were undisclosed.
As Crain's previously reported, Atlas moved to Traverse City from California after an investment offer was made from Boomerang Capital LLC, a Traverse City venture capital firm.
The number of satellites projected to be orbiting earth in the coming years is rapidly expanding. A report last year in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Technology Review projects that there could be as many as 1,100 satellites by 2025, up from 365 in 2018.
Given that projected rise in satellite usage, Blake told Crain's he anticipates further investment into Atlas, and likely a series B fundraising round in the coming year as the company works toward greater scale.
"For us, we're underwriting investment in the company today and subsequent support going forward, so our expectation is outsized returns," said Blake, who declined to provide specific figures. "We view them as a leader in the space field and view that there will be significant liquidity options for us going forward."
The latest investment round will allow Atlas to grow its software platform called Freedom and "virtualize and automate the access to [hundreds] of ground nodes on a global scale," CEO Sean McDaniel said in a statement.