In a previous publication, we analyzed European startups in the small launchers market. One of the reasons for the increase in the number of companies which provide delivery of the small payloads to the orbit – rapidly increasing demand for the launch of small satellites for communication and monitoring of the earth’s surface (GIS).
According to Allied Market Research, the global geospatial analytics market demonstrates stable positive growth. In 2019 it garnered $58.35 billion and by 2027 it is expected to generate $158.84 billion. Despite that Covid-19 slowed down the development in many areas, it boosted the progress of the new technologies and solutions in the GIS sector. Thus, creating great opportunities for growth and expansion of the market and appearance of the new players.
A global technological breakthrough makes it possible and economically expedient to form in space constellations of smaller and smarter satellites for communication and near-real-time monitoring of the earth. Development in the area of artificial intelligence and machine learning, along with technological capabilities for storing and processing data, enables people to process a huge amount of information at a lower cost. New approaches in data analysis make satellite images something more than just a “picture from the space” and provide clients from various industries with actionable insights. Altogether, these factors create ideal conditions for the rapid and long-term growth of the GIS market. Geospatial analytics is one of the main drivers in the space industry, which led to the emergence of a large number of new companies.
This time, we will briefly discuss one of the well-known companies in the area of geospatial analytics – Orbital Insight. Founded in 2013, it uses machine learning and AI algorithms to interpret satellite images for a variety of industrial verticals. James Crawford, Orbital Insight CEO, definitely caught the opportunity of high demand and availability of technical resources, founding his company and securing rapid growth in coming years. Among the achievements are appearances in the Forbes Cloud 100: Rising Stars in 2016.
It has three main projects:
- Orbital Insight GO – geospatial platform, launched in 2019 and aggregates main company projects. Applicable for geospatial solutions, supply chain monitoring, real estate forensics, cartography;
- Global Geospatial Crude Index (GCI) – tracks the oil reserves of 25 000 floating roof tanks and anonymous telephone data of refinery employees for market forecast;
- Earth Monitor – joint project with Airbus. Earth Monitor uses Orbital Insight algorithms and is focused on vehicle, cargo and aircraft counting services.
Although, the company is not doing as well as it might seem from the outside. Orbital Insight has seen a decrease in the number of employees over the last six months (-4.82% according to data from Craft.co, -7% according to LinkedIn page). Perhaps the actual number of employees who have left the company is even higher. But it is not going to give up its positions easily and is actively looking for new employees, there are 14 vacancies open at the moment.
But while Orbital Insight is trying to solve the problem of employee churn, main competitors continue their growth over the last six months: Planet Labs (+3% according to Craft.co, +7% according to LinkedIn), Iceye (+5% according to Craft.co, +30% according to LinkedIn), Satellogic (+5% according to Craft.co, +11% according to LinkedIn), Descartes Labs (+2% according to Craft.co, -2% according to LinkedIn), like most of the companies on the market. Feedback from staff on Teamblind and Glassdoor can shed a little light on what is happening. According to the majority of reviews, the company has a strong team and innovative product which is exciting to work with. But not so long ago, problems began and no one is in a hurry to solve them. The reason lies in poor leadership, that keeps employees from seeing a clear future for themselves within the company. In June and August 2020, they wrote on Glassdoor that “some really smart teammates have more passion for random interesting projects without any business application” and the company has poor executive team. In February 2021 they mentioned on Blind that “it was a hard down round that caused a lot of people to leave”, and in March we again saw a notion about the poor management and inability to focus. Nothing has really changed after one year, except that many talented people have left the company. The top-leaders who left Orbital Insight are: VP, Head of Global Sales – Ralph Lafferty, worked more than 4 years; VP, Technology Research – Gil Syswerda, worked more than 1 year; VP HR, Talent – Riffat Jaffer, worked more than 1 year; VP, Head of Global Public Sector Sales – Chris Bollinger, worked more than 3 years. Head Of Marketing, Michael Lapides, who worked more than 3 years, is now in Capella Space, Orbital Insight competitor.
We have also contacted some of the Orbital Insight ex-employees, but have had no response.
Despite the tough situation with management, marketing seems to be much better as the company is still in trend and appears on pages of well-known online magazines, like Global Trade.
Taking all the factors together we can clearly see that if the company’s management does not change its strategy, even an influx of new employees is unlikely to help return to strong growth. A good start and innovative solutions are not always the key to long-term success. Without strong and professional management, the prospects are very uncertain.