Satellite imagery specialist ICEYE raises $136 million to better monitor catastrophes like floods

Finnish satellite-imagery venture ICEYE has raised $136 million in new funds, the company announced on Thursday, as it looks to add to its spacecraft fleet in orbit and further develop its product line in natural catastrophe detection.

The latest round of venture capital fundraising, led by UK fund Seraphim Space, brings the total to $304 million since ICEYE’s founding seven years ago.

“This financing has really been built around the further growth of the natural catastrophe product line,” ICEYE CEO co-founder and CEO Rafal Modrzewski told CNBC, adding that “flood monitoring is really the prime product right now… [but] we want to cover wildfire, we want to cover wind, we want to cover hail.”

Modrzewski declined to specify ICEYE’s new valuation after the fundraising, but said the increase “was comparable to the previous rounds” and that the company is “very pleased” with its growth.

According to Pitchbook, ICEYE’s previous fundraising put its valuation at about $320 million, and makes for a new valuation at over $1 billion, given its historical growth rate.

A host of prior investors contributed to ICEYE’s latest round – including Molten Ventures, OTB Ventures, True Ventures, C16 Ventures, Space Capital, Chione, Services Group of America, and the UK’s National Security Strategic Investment Fund – as well as two ICEYE customers, BAE Systems and Promus Ventures.

ICEYE specializes in combining a special type of imagery, called synthetic aperture radar (or SAR), with a form factor the size of a suitcase – reducing the cost of launching multiple satellites to create a network that can image places on Earth multiple times a day . SAR satellites are able to capture images of the surface at night and through clouds, a key advantage over traditional imaging satellites.

The company has deployed 16 satellites in orbit to date, and plans to use the new funds to help launch as many as 10 additional ones this year.

The growth of that fleet is crucial to ICEYE expanding its Nature Catastrophe (NatCat) Insights and Solutions product line, because more eyes in the sky allow the company to visit points of interest more frequently.

Modrzewski said the company’s largest customer groups for the NatCat unit are governments and insurance.

“We see huge investments from entities like [the Federal Emergency Management Agency] or the European Space Agency to understand floods better and to respond quicker,” Modrzewski said. “But we also see a massive initiative coming from within the insurance industry – to bring new technology, given what’s happening to the climate.”

ICEYE is based in Helsinki, Finland, but has established a US presence in the past year with a manufacturing facility in Southern California. The company launched its first US-built satellite in late 2021, and last month received a study contract from the National Reconnaissance Office, which is an anchor customer of the US Earth intelligence market.

For now, ICEYE does not have a timeline to go public, which Modrzewski called “a huge decision.” He said he does not think ICEYE will go public in a year or two, but added it “would like to have that option within that period of time.”