For the next couple of days in Marseilles I am representing Seraphim Space Fund at the Copernicus Accelerator bootcamp, an initiative of the European Commission (EC) and part of the Copernicus Start-up Programme, which is designed to support earth observation start-ups from the generation of a business idea to its full commercialisation. By the end of this year's programme, the accelerator will have supported nearly 150 companies and entrepreneurs. Europe should be proud of what it's nurturing and supporting in terms of generating ideas about how to exploit satellite data.
For those that don't know about the EU's Copernicus Programme, it is the most ambitious earth observation satellite programme in the world and the 3rd largest satellite data provider globally (their stats, not mine). The data is free and open to users, the number of whom have doubled every year since the first 'Sentinel' satellite launched in 2014. As of May 2018, there were 150,000 users of Copernicus data.
As part of today's bootcamp, I moderated a roundtable discussion with investors from the business angel and equity crowdfunding communities. Our message was clear to the start-ups (some were just registered a month ago!) - build a business, not just a feature or a project. Do your homework on the scale of the problem facing customers, talk to the potential users of your analytics/product sets before embarking on the build of the technology that will hopefully give you a competitive edge.
Whilst I am always pleasantly surprised to hear about the ever larger number of space companies forming, mentors and investors can also help these fledgling companies by giving open and honest feedback about the potential scale and quality of their business propositions. For me, it's much more about the quality over quantity that ultimately drives the KPIs of public (e.g. grant) funding and its impact on the start-up community. Having worked for a UK Government funded research and technology company myself, this point resonates strongly with me.
As venture capital funders in a deep tech sector such as space, at Seraphim we believe the continued presence and support of organisations like the EC and the European Space Agency (ESA) in funding/developing early (and even later stage) space start-ups is very important for the future growth of this sector, and for Europe to remain competitive globally. We are pleased to be working closely with the likes of ESA, the UK Space Agency and Satellite Applications Catapult in the UK, to ensure the most promising space start-ups continue to grow and develop here in Europe.