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Earth Day: Planet CEO details how satellite images can be used to assess ESG risks

Planet CEO Will Marshall joins Yahoo Finance Live to discuss the demand for assessing and monitoring solutions around ESG risks with Moody's, a multi-year launch with SpaceX, combating climate change, and the outlook for growth.

Video Transcript


- Satellite imaging company Planet and Moody's are teaming up to tackle the demand for assessing and monitoring solutions related to risks around ESG. Joining us now for an aerial view on ESG reporting and the latest satellite developments is Planet co-founder and CEO, Will Marshall. Will, it's good to see you. Thanks for being here.

So how-- how is this partnership going to work, I guess, to sort of give us the parameters here, and why it's useful to literally have an aerial view of the globe to try to assess ESG risks?

WILL MARSHALL: Well, thanks, and thanks for having me. Firstly, happy Earth Day. It is International Earth Day today, and so celebrating is an important thing.

Yeah, our partnership with Moody's, we're really excited about that because every country has to-- a company has to measure its ESG targets, and we are partnering with Moody's to-- to try to better use satellite data to do global reporting standards, understand global asset risk, and develop products that enable the whole financial sector to transition to a sustainable one. And sustainable-- a sustainable economy, measuring your ESG targets and so on, means measuring natural capital. And how do you do that? Well, you have to-- satellite data is a good starting point for that.

- Well, just talk to us about just, you know, just given a partnership like this, and put-- you know, I imagine there'll be a lot more focus on the assets you launch. What is your launch plan in terms of any more data or satellites?

WILL MARSHALL: Well, since we last came on, you know, we went public, so we've got a fairly big capital sheet. But we've also seen quite a lot of growth in our-- in our revenue and-- and in demand for our data from-- from events around the world. And I can talk about Ukraine, and what's happening in sustainability and climate response.

And-- and so, yeah, we are leaning in and investing in-- in improving our satellites. In fact, just yesterday, we announced the Pelican fleet of satellites. Details about that fleet, we're going to launch 32 of those satellites. They are 30-centimeter resolution, and they will be able to revisit the world up to 30 times per day. It's the new fleet of satellites, upgrading from the fleet called SkySat that we inherited from Google, that's going to be better, faster in all senses, improvements since our last one, and that's going to enable, particularly, the kind of activities that we're seeing more and more.

So with climate, we're seeing more rapid needs for our data from things like disaster responses after floods and fires and earthquakes. We need quick data. So this-- this will be able to be very fast, you know, really rapid response at times just minutes after delivery, and then getting that data in the hands of the users in the most sophisticated way. And so, many people are seeking that data and so that's why we're designed to-- designing that fleet to-- to be the-- in a rapidly moving world, the answer to the questions you have.

- And Will, answering the questions is one thing, doing something about them is another. And I know that's less your purview, right? You give them the data, you give them the tools. But I am curious at being Earth Day how optimistic you are that we are going to see real meaningful movement on climate change. You know, again, the tools are there, it's a matter of acting on them.

WILL MARSHALL: Well, you're dead right. We have to change behavior and act differently, but the first step is-- is the data that enables you to make those smart decisions. At Planet, what we're trying to do is empower our users with the data to make smarter day-to-day decisions about the planet. It stands to reason that you can't manage what you don't measure, right? You have to measure it in order to manage it effectively-- whether you're a farmer improving your crop yields, or anyone else.

Tell you what gives me hope towards your question, Judy, is that I just saw-- we announced an expansion of our partnership with NASA recently, and I saw a map of all the ways in which they're using the data, and it's across the whole world. And they are tracking key kind of variables, and helping us as-- as a whole society to respond to climatic events more-- more directly. We are working with FEMA now to help them have data to ensure that they do rapid response to disasters. We are working with Bayer environmental sciences to enable ranchers to assess their pastures from invasive species that are becoming more common with-- with climate change.

These are real things. They are helping people make real decisions. So yes, we're a tool that empowers people to make real decisions, but we're seeing that happen across the board.

- When you analyze a lot of this data, Will, what grade would you put on the health of the world today?

WILL MARSHALL: Well, you know, it's a sad, sad starting point, no question, right? We are seeing more climatic events of extreme weather, and that's driving challenges around the world such as-- as collapsing of our coral systems and so on. But then, even worse than that, we have seen an absolute decimation of ecology on the planet. 70% of fish in freshwater rivers and lakes, 82% of mammals-- all of these numbers gone in the last 40 years. So we've decimated the populations of animal species and-- of all kinds around the planet.

However, what we are also seeing is that nature bounces back when given the chance. And so, if you protect an area of land, nature bounces quickly back. If you protect an area of the oceans, nature quickly bounces back.

And so we know what we need to do. We need to stop the deforestation, we need to protect those marine protected areas, we need to transition to sustainable agriculture, and so on. And Planet's data is actually enabling us to accelerate-- enabling humanity to accelerate its response to those challenges. And so I'm-- I'm inspired by the wicked tools that we have to bring to bear on the challenges, despite the, if you like, pretty sad starting point that we have positioned ourselves in.

- Will, just quickly here. Obviously this is a big and important conversation, but I also want to have a very quick conversation about your stock, because as you mentioned, you've become a public company. The stock has not done great, as have many dSPACs that have underperformed. Just quickly here, what would be your message to investors right now?

WILL MARSHALL: Well, Planet is playing a long game. We see that we're building a business that is rapidly growing. We are predicting between doubling and tripling our revenue growth rate between last year and this year.

So we are really scaling fast. We're growing from what-- just a beyond number last year that we predicted, just over $330 million in revenue, but we're predicting $170 to $190 million revenue this year. That is quite substantive growth.

And that's because we see this demand. We see it in Ukraine with the challenges going on there. We see it from Moody's and others that we're partnering in.

We said when I was last on here that I was really excited about these nascent markets in insurance and finance-- we're even seeing those take off. We recently announced a partnership with Swiss Re partnership with Cinemax and others. You know, I'm feeling the demand and we're leaning in. Look, not all SPACs are the same. I think we've shown that we can hit our numbers and beat our numbers, and the market will come to understand Planet as a data and subscription-- data subscription business that we are.

- Yep.

WILL MARSHALL: And we're just concentrating-- I'm just concentrating on building that business.

- All right, we'll leave it there. Happy Earth Day to you. Planet co-founder and CEO, Will Marshall, good to see you again.