Nanosatellite startup Myriota has signed a statement of strategic intent with the Australian Space Agency, leading co-founder Alex Grant to suggest this could be the sector that propels the next Aussie unicorns into the stratosphere.
Spun out of the University of South Australia’s Institute for Telecommunications Research in 2015, Myriota creates satellites to provide Internet-of-Things (IoT) connectivity for devices, anywhere in the world.
The startup raised $19.4 million in March last year, in a round led by CSIRO’s Main Sequence Ventures and Blue Sky Ventures. The round also included Right Click Capital, Singtel Innov8 and Boeing, which invested through its HorizonX Ventures arm.
In May this year, Myriota partnered with Eagle.io to help monitor global water supplies.
Since the Series A round, the startup has more than doubled its headcount to 25 people, had a satellite launch, and onboarded “a significant number” of manufacturing partners, Grant tells StartupSmart.
The team has been working on developing the platform, and bringing the product to market, he adds.
“The supply chain that we fit into is really maturing.”
The partnership with the Australian Space Agency marks a solid step towards the next phase of growth, Grant says.
Myriota now has plans to double employee numbers and have some 25 satellites in orbit by 2022.
The partnership with the space agency will allow the team to go from one satellite launch per year to “having ongoing programs of launches, supporting the growth of the network”, the founder says.
It will also help Myriota foster “the right kind of relationships”, both on home ground and internationally.
“We have international suppliers and partners and contractors and vendors that we already deal with, but we see a real opportunity for Australian technology to make its way into larger international R&D programs and missions,” Grant says.
Aussie space unicorns
Within the next 12 months or so, Grant says he expects to have secured more funding for Myriota, and to have grown the team in order to support delivery of the service.
“We will see our satellite constellation become very capable in supporting new sensing and telemetry and tracking applications, globally,” he says.
Myriota is “at the point of transition”, he adds, growing up from its startup beginnings.
“We’re definitely a scale-up, and an IoT service provider,” Grant says.
And at the same time, the Aussie spacetech sector is maturing too. In fact, even before the Australian Space Agency was created, he says the country had “a flying start” in this space.
The agency itself has goals to grow Australia’s space sector three-fold over the next decade or so, he says.
“How can that growth be achieved? By incrementally growing existing players, which is difficult to do, or by mega growth from startups.”
In reality, the growth will come from a combination of the two, he adds.
“But, when we have companies setting up, getting new investment and creating new jobs, that’s got a really significant role to play for those growth targets.”
The spacetech sector has been heating up in Australia.
In October last year, Gilmour Space Technologies secured $19 million in Series B funding.
Elsewhere, Northern Territory-based Equatorial Launch Australia has secured a deal with NASA, and will provide the site for the agency’s first-ever private launch outside of the US.
And in Melbourne, a pair of 16-year-olds won Startup Victoria’s spacetech-themed pitch night for their reusable, hybrid rocket technology.
With more and more investment going into the spacetech sector, Grant has “no doubt there will be an Australian space unicorn”.
“Which I love thinking about — it creates a good image in my mind.”
In fact, he suggests there will likely be more than one.
“It’s just a question of who’s going to get there first,” he adds.
Spacetech alone is not enough
That said, Grant also has some words of warning for founders who may see spacetech as a surefire route to success.
“Spacetech alone doesn’t guarantee traction or investment,” he says.
Founders still have to find product-market fit, and create a product there is a need and a demand for.
“What is it that you’re producing that someone is going to want to buy?” Grant asks.
“What are the drivers behind the need for that product?”
At Myriota, right from the early days, Grant was interacting with prospective clients to figure out how best to solve the problem at hand. Understanding the “unfair advantage” spacetech can give you just allows you to deliver an appropriate solution, he says.
“In very technical areas of endeavour, and space can be like that, there can be a tendency for a technology push ahead of a market pull,” Grant explains.
“But having those ingredients puts you in a very good place.”