Business Startups Venture

Slingshot Aerospace Raises $5M For AI-Driven Data Analysis

Slingshot Aerospace, an advanced analytics company, has raised $5 million in a seed funding round led by ATX Venture Partners that included participation from Revolution’s Rise of the Rest Seed Fund.

Previous investors Okapi Capital, Stage Venture Partners, Sway Ventures, and Techstars also put money into the round.

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Co-founded in 2016 by serial entrepreneur David Godwin and former Air Force officers Melanie Stricklan and Thomas Ashman, Slingshot Aerospace uses artificial intelligence to analyze data from satellites, airplanes, and drones for defense, disaster response, and commercial applications.

The company’s goal is “to significantly improve the value of data customers consume, allowing them to gain competitive advantage, reduce risk and lower costs.” Its product offerings include: Orbital Atlas, a space situational awareness platform; Earth Portal, a geospatial visualization portal; and N2X, an edge-AI framework for drones and spacecraft. Customers include BAE Systems, Boeing, NASA and the U.S. Air Force. Earlier this month, the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center awarded the company a $6 million, two-year contract.

“There’s been a massive increase in the number of satellites and drones or other types of sensors looking at earth or up in the sky that present new opportunities to monitor change on a daily or sub-daily basis,” Stricklan, the company’s chief strategy officer, told Crunchbase News. “That’s a huge amount of data.”

During her time in the military, Stricklan said the U.S. government would collect more live video and images from satellites in a single day than the entire NFL archives.

The current process to analyze such data is a very manual one, noted Godwin.

“The Department of Defense, insurance companies, oil and gas companies are examples of industries using that kind of data,” he told Crunchbase News. “And there’s a lot of manual labor to review and look for things. We can look through more data quicker with machine learning and artificial intelligence.”

However, Stricklan is quick to point out that the company is looking to augment the jobs of humans rather than replace them.

“Our goal is to enhance their ability to make better, faster, and more accurate decisions,” she said.

Colin Greenspon, partner at Revolution’s Rise of the Rest Seed Fund (which focuses on investing outside of Silicon Valley, as I covered here), believes Slingshot “is on the cutting edge of applying AI, ML and big data analytics to geospatial and orbital exploration at a time when insights are more needed than ever.” It is also, he said, another example of a company “finding advantages in scaling outside of Silicon Valley.”

The financing brings Slingshot Aerospace’s total venture raised to $9.1 million. The company plans to use the new capital toward product development and hire across its finance, business development and software engineering/data sciences. With 20 employees, Slingshot has offices in Austin, Texas, and El Segundo, Calif. The company declined to provide revenue figures with CEO Godwin saying only numbers saw “a good jump” last year and that 2019 “should be a good year.”

In general, Godwin believes the market opportunity for Slingshot is “vast.”

“In bringing together disparate signals and using deep learning to speed up time-sensitive detections, both terrestrial and in orbit, we are continually discovering new ways to predict the unexpected and empower our commercial and defense customers with advanced analytics,” said Stricklan.

Slingshot Aerospace joins a host of other companies in the field raising money. Earlier this month, Joanna Glasner wrote about how venture investment in space technology hit stratospheric heights in recent quarters.

Illustration: Li-Anne Dias