After one year and two months of constant iteration on the Master Plan Part Un, we’re excited to announce that we’ve earned the backing of some incredibly talented people. Brad Gillespie and the team at IA Ventures led our oversubscribed 5M USD seed round. This allowed us to attract some really great investors namely, Techstars Ventures, Liquid 2 VC (NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana’s fund), SK Ventures, Zelkova Ventures, Plug & Play Ventures, V1 VC, Globalive Capital, and BDC.
IA is the perfect partner to have on board with their ever-growing understanding of how data powers our world. Add to that Brad’s PhD in Electrical Engineering, experience at Lockheed Martin, and the countless companies he’s built at IA. We’re delighted to be bringing Brad on our board.
This raise will allow us to execute the first two steps in the master plan: building a satellite communications platform 100x cheaper and selling a niche service to early customers. This means we should have two satellites in orbit by the end of 2017 and our satellite M2M service operational shortly after. So naturally we’re hiring a few people here.
It’s important to emphasize that this is only the first step in our development. While getting here was challenging, it by no means guarantees the success of Kepler. All too often I find entrepreneurs get praise for raising investment while those building businesses that bootstrap to exciting revenues go unnoticed. The converse should be true as bootstrapped businesses have actually built a machine (business) that works. We’re only at what I like to call step 0 of execution; we’ve got the parts and resources to build our machine, but some assembly is required.
Fund raising quickly becomes a toxic activity that takes away from building a real business. It’s easy to get roped in by the allure of travelling to different destinations, meeting exciting people, and landing investor checks, so much so that you unwittingly ignore (or want to ignore) very real problems that need to be solved. To that end, I made every effort to minimize how much of the team’s most precious and finite resource – time – would be spent to get the necessary money resource. This came at the cost of isolating myself from most business operations and the team for an extended period of time. Needless to say, I’m happy to be off the fundraising trail.
Getting to the point where we have the resources to build our machine in only a year was the result of an incredibly supportive ecosystem in both Toronto and Seattle (Techstars). Techcrunch covers how Toronto helps, while Geekwire talks about Seattle’s influence as the Silicon Valley for space companies. That’s why we needed both, though starting Kepler was only possible in Toronto.
Toronto is where I had access to a passionate and capable co-founding team that after a single phone call were willing to leave long term employment and PhD aspirations to build Kepler with me. A team that couldn’t be swayed by big tech firms or start-ups to do anything else. This rare combination of loyalty, skills, and personality I haven’t seen anywhere else.
Toronto is also the only place where our newly formed team had access to pre-seed programs that drastically accelerated our business. It is where we could learn for free at places like Start@UTIAS, the UofT Hatchery, CDL, and the DMZ from seasoned mentors and entrepreneurs. I’ve witnessed first-hand how these programs have put us kilometers (not miles because we’re Canadian) ahead of peer start-ups that didn’t have access to them.
So I want to end off by thanking these programs for teaching us, our families and friends for patiently tolerating us being absent, and, most importantly, our investors for joining us on this journey. I’d also like to acknowledge a few people who had generously donated their time to Kepler:
- Chris Devore from Techstars who has done more for Kepler than I can list.
- Matthew Smith from GLSmith who designed our logo and website.
- Joe Landon from Space Angels Network who advised on early business strategy.
Onwards and upwards