A Canadian startup working at the cutting edge of satellite imaging has raised $4.5 million across a combination of a $2.25 million seed round, and $2.25 million from a combined pre-seed and government funding. Wyvern, which is working specifically on hyperspectral imaging (imaging that captures light across many different wavelengths, including non-visible ones) is also joining Y Combinator's Winter 2022 cohort.
I've covered Wyvern in the past, including when the startup participated in incubator Creative Destruction Lab (CDL)'s academic conference-like demo day back in 2019. Since then, the startup has made some significant moves beyond just the funding, including growing to a total of 18 employees and bringing on aerospace industry veteran and former Airbus CTO Christine Tovee. Wyvern is also set to launch its first satellites to orbit this year.
"Launch is the next big thing we're looking forward to," said Christopher Robson, co-founder and CEO of Wyvern. "This is going to be our first set of imagery products. This is the first step that's going to take us to getting some super high-resolution hyperspectral. We won't see the super high resolution stuff for another couple of years yet, but when it gets here, it's going to be pretty great and game changing."
Making hyperspectral imaging captured from space accessible to commercial customers could unlock major efficiencies in existing industries, including Wyvern's first target, agriculture, but it's also likely to open up opportunities for entirely new businesses and industries to emerge. Hyperspectral imaging can provide detail about previously hidden information, including the chemical makeup of the scene it captures.
Seed round lead investor MaC Venture Capital recognized the immense potential for hyperspectral, and Robson told me that it was clear from the start the firm and new Wyvern Board member Adrian Fenty were a perfect match for the young company.
"First, we hit it off right from the first meeting," he said. "Both of our teams really meshed well together. But the other thing that really appealed to us about MaC is that they've had previous space investments, and they were very bullish about the space market. They were very strategic in the sense that there were a lot of different either customers or investors or partners that they could connect us to through those investments in the space, as well as in some of our customer markets."
Founded by a team of young entrepreneurs, engineers and scientists, Wyvern also added to its strategic advantage with the recent hire of Tovee. Robson told me about how that key leadership team member came onboard.
"Christine had been on our technical board of advisors for quite some time," he said. "We also built a strong relationship with her through CDL. And I think we just really enjoyed working with one another: There was a lot of mutual respect between Christine and the team. We realized that we need some kind of veteran aerospace industry expertise on our exec team to understand how we can play in that part of the of the space industry, too. So definitely a fantastic addition in terms of tech strategy."
Tovee also joins the company as yet another female senior leader in an industry where gender diversity is woefully underrepresented. Wyvern co-founder and COO Callie Lissinna (who also joined our recent TC Sessions: Space event) told me that that has been, and remains a priority for the startup, and it has served them well in conversations with investors and potential team members.
"In a lot of our conversations with investors, they would mentioned how unique our team is in the space industry for having a 50/50 gender diverse founding team and around a 66% female exec team as a space startup," she said. "And that really flows through to our hiring and recruitment: We've had students say they really like the diversity on our founding team or in our company. So that seems to be an attractive factor for both talent recruitment and investors."