There’s nine weeks left of this year, and as Tom, me and the Terris crew gear up for 2022, I’m taking some time to reflect on the three big trends I observed during our fall pitch season at TechCrunch, CIX and Atlantic Venture Forum (AVF).
First, the space tech investor space is expanding. As I noted in an earlier column, the global space economy is valued at $447 billion, and an increasing number of investors across North America are getting serious about how and where to invest. Whether it was Valley investors at TechCrunch, or Canadian VCs and angels at CIX and AVF, investors are keen to explore revenue paths for geospatial technology and earth intelligence companies.
These space tech investors understand that space isn’t just about launching and maintaining satellites; it’s about what we’ll do with all the data being collected.
The world needs people on Earth putting all this data together, which is what Terris does.
When I first started talking with investors two years ago, I spent a lot of time explaining the exponential growth of satellite technology and data collection.
At this year’s investor conferences, there was a greater understanding of the power of geospatial data collection and the significant investment opportunity it represents.
The second trend I observed is investors want clearly defined AI outcomes.
A greater understanding of the potential of geospatial technology, naturally leads investors to ask the question: so, what are you going to do with all this data?
Investors are becoming more sophisticated in their approach to artificial intelligence (AI).
While some continue to just look for AI start-ups simply to invest in AI, the smart money is digging a bit deeper.
At TechCrunch, as I went from investor pitch room to investor pitch room, I was asked specific questions about our use of AI, most notably how we intend to capitalize on the back-end intelligence we garner from the massive amounts of geospatial data entering the commercial marketplace.
That’s a notable difference in tone and interest.
For a couple of years, if you did any form of data analysis you could claim to be an AI company, but that alone won’t cut it with top tier investors.
They want to know what our value differentiation is in the AI marketplace.
I tell them our machine learning and AI helps augment humans in their decision-making, such as being able to identify hurricane-damaged buildings within minutes after the storm, rather than the days it currently takes.
That’s a magnitude of change in human knowledge and situational awareness that is made possible by our AI. Those are the types of examples that pique investors’ interest and prompt a follow-up phone call or a DM on LinkedIn.
Finally, the B Corp brand and the values it represents is gaining visibility and reputation with investors.
When I pitch online, there’s a B Corp logo on the wall behind my shoulder.
In a five-minute pitch presentation, I don’t talk about B Corp and our values; my priority is talking about our technology and our path to revenue.
However, during the Q&A an increasing number of investors have noted the ‘B’ logo, acknowledging the effort it takes to achieve that designation and congratulating Tom and I for seeking it so early in Terris’s development.
While B Corp certification isn’t integral to an investors’ decision-making, it is beginning to count as one of the interesting variables that sets us apart from other start-ups.
Between TechCrunch, CIX and AVF, I probably watched over 30 companies pitch; none of the founders talked about their operational footprint, or the core values that determine how they conduct business, who they do business with, and how they want to build.
Traditionally tech startups have small teams that are heads down building a product, finding a product-market fit and earning their first customers.
That comes first, and everything else follows.
Tom and I flipped that model.
We opted to spend our early days figuring out core values and inscribing those values in how we operate and build out Terris.
This year, as talk about net zero pledges and ESG investment criteria became common terms on business and investor news feeds, our B Corp certification illustrates we understand where the world is going and intend to play an active part in that shift.
In 2021, for the first time a noticeable percentage of investors took note of our commitment and recognized the value in that association.