It’s easy to think of the world as connected. After all, more than five billion people and counting have mobile devices. Connectivity feels ubiquitous.
And yet, it’s not. Not even close.
Humans only occupy 10 percent of the earth — leaving 90 percent inaccessible to the wireless connectivity we take for granted. Think just for a second about what that means. Virtually the entirety of the globe is so difficult to connect, so austere, that — in a real sense — much of the world isn’t fully known to us. And that’s a meaningful loss — of scientific exploration, economic opportunity, and beneficial advances in safety and security.
Today, our portfolio company — Skylo Technologies — emerges from stealth mode to connect the world, and we’re beyond excited to celebrate its launch.
Skylo is an affordable, ubiquitous satellite-based network that can connect any machine and sensor. If cell networks were built for people, Skylo was built for machines, to connect the estimated one billion unconnected devices at work in the world’s unconnected places. Just like AWS is a powerful behind-the-scenes enabler for Twitter, Netflix, and countless other business, Skylo has the potential to expand opportunities for existing industry and spark the creation of transformative new companies.
We are excited by the ways Skylo could be called into action. Imagine, for example, if sensors placed deep in forests and areas vulnerable to fire could tell us the very second a tiny flame appeared. Sensors placed in cargo containers of sensitive materials — like vaccines which require temperature consistency — could provide real-time insights into the shipment’s condition. More than 4.6 million fishing boats around the world have no way to signal for help if needed; satellite-supported sensors can increase safety and open the door to better business operations. Even simple examples, like the individual farmer who has to manually check a remote well once a week to monitor water levels, are powerful.
We’ve been very lucky to be involved with the company in a changing capacity since the very early days when Parth — Skylo’s Founder and CEO — used his Stanford faculty-sponsored research project to focus on the future of machine-to-machine communications. There was a clear need; that much was obvious. Satellite communications was also not new — and it was expensive. But together we wondered what would happen if you could radically change the economics. What use cases open up if the prohibitive cost of satellite communication was no longer an issue? How could industries — like mining, agriculture, or oil and gas — with equipment in remote places become safer and more efficient?
Those questions sparked this ambitious project and its five-year arc. The initial focus was, “Can this work?” There was so much good, hard science that went into this endeavor and hands-on work. The team had to prove it could build inexpensive devices from the ground up — literally soldering them together, conducting drive testing, and completing propagation analysis. In some ways, it was straightforward: either the devices communicated with a satellite or they didn’t. Very different from a typical Internet company!
Over time, it became clear to Parth that the best path forward was building a new architecture around geostationary satellites. And that’s what he and the team did — from the start at Stanford through incubation at Innovation Endeavors and eventual funding. The results speak for themselves: this “old tech/new way” approach has made hardware and services affordable, as much as 99 percent (really!) cheaper with limitless application opportunities made possible by satellites.
Start-ups are often lauded by their investors as world-changing, so much so that it’s a groaner of a Silicon Valley cliche. But in this case, it’s true.
We can’t wait to see what Skylo does now.
You can learn more about Skylo here.