Albedo Wraps Up Y Combinator with a $10M Seed Round

posted on
April 19, 2021

Albedo designs and operates a constellation of satellites that capture visible and thermal imagery at the highest resolution available.

Announcing our seed round

Our mission is to be the catalyst in unlocking satellite imagery’s latent potential, with the goal of expanding current applications and propelling the discovery of new use cases. Whether our imagery is being used to reduce wildfire risk, assess the environmental impact of global forestry, contribute to timely 3D reconstructions of urban areas, or monitor carbon emissions from industrial power plants, our mission is to get better high-resolution data into the hands of decision makers fast.

As a key step towards this goal, we are thrilled to announce our $10M seed round led by Initialized Capital, with participation from Liquid 2 Ventures, Soma Capital, Jetstream, Rebel Fund, and others.

In addition, we're excited about our angel investors with incredible domain expertise and operating experience, which include: Keith Masback (former USGIF CEO), Tom Sheridan (Lt. General, USAF, Ret.), Kevin Mahaffey (Lookout cofounder), Daniel Kan (Cruise cofounder/CPO), Immad Akhund (Mercury cofounder/CEO), James Park (Fitbit cofounder / former CEO), and Harsh Patel (former Galvanize CEO).

This funding will be key in building out our team of mission-driven experts, maturing our ground software and satellite design, and partnering with our hardware suppliers to begin the build of our first system.

A few of the near-infinite applications for satellite imagery

In the commercial world today, a large number of overhead imagery applications are well known, but the actual adoption of these use cases is far from mature.

Companies in property insurance use overhead imagery for remote underwriting, processing claims, and evaluating weather damage - although today, they are mostly limited to aerial imagery due to resolution needs.

Utilities companies use imagery for monitoring millions of miles of power lines, preventing wildfires and power outages. Today, they mostly drive trucks or fly helicopters along lines and don’t do updates for years due to sheer scale.

Agriculture users employ imagery for monitoring crop health and predicting yield.  Users that can afford it use aerial thermal imagery to detect irrigation issues, which will now be possible globally and economically using our thermal imagery.

The list goes on for applications in mapping (5G networks, autonomous vehicles, augmented reality), energy (pipeline monitoring, renewable energy site selection), hedge funds & commodity trading, journalism, urban planning, railroad inspection, supply chain, and of course, keeping our country and troops safe.

We are particularly excited about the synergy between our visible and thermal imagery for climate applications, which range from emissions monitoring, forestry carbon capture, to natural disaster relief. The leader in global emissions monitoring, Climate Trace, is using thermal imagery in its mission to standardize emissions reporting for every country. Their team currently uses visible imagery of the emission plumes to estimate carbon content. However, this is sensitive to wind conditions and uncertain assumptions. You can see in the thermal image below how only two of those four towers are active. Using that heat signature, combined with knowledge of surface properties and fuel type, the Climate Trace team can calculate accurate carbon emissions day or night.

Albedo solves the three biggest issues facing today's geospatial industry


Today's users of overhead imagery are forced to make a compromise: are high resolution and accuracy (aerial) or frequency, on-demand availability, and global coverage (satellite) more important? This trade-off has limited the growth of applications for overhead imagery, as the cost-benefit curve failed to justify market adoption for many industries using this type of imagery

Albedo eliminates the need to compromise, providing affordable satellite imagery at an unprecedented spatial resolution of 10cm.


The entire user experience for tasking and receiving satellite imagery is archaic. First time users have to go through a back-and-forth process with a salesperson in a sometimes months-long process, overshadowed by high prices that exclude all but the biggest companies. Many companies still deliver imagery via FTP servers or physical hard drives, while making no clear effort to transition to a streamlined, fully cloud-based delivery mechanism with user-friendly API’s.

Albedo is redefining the user experience with transparent pricing, low-latency delivery, developer API's built atop a fully cloud-based infrastructure.

Sensor Diversity

The current climate crisis requires a diverse set of space-based sensors to support emissions monitoring, ESG initiatives, and infrastructure sustainability. Thermal sensors are a key component, but currently none exist that capture imagery at a usable resolution. Climate applications aside, remote sensing analysts are discovering the additional power when combining visible imagery with other data types.

Albedo's satellites will simultaneously collect thermal imagery orders of magnitude higher than any current or planned commercial offering.

Technology, the geospatial ecosystem, and regulations: the time is now

Starting a satellite company today means we can build an entirely new type of architecture that significantly reduces development costs. New technologies like electric propulsion and on-orbit refueling enable our satellites to fly much closer to the earth and achieve ultra high resolution without needing to build a school bus-sized satellite. Combined with low launch costs and third-party infrastructure like ground stations as a service, and you end up with a path to affordable 10cm imagery.

Customers want insights, not pixels.

Although it’s become somewhat of a platitude within the industry, this quote communicates the idea that extracting value from satellite imagery is far from trivial. Analytics derived from satellite imagery require a unique approach that varies widely by the use case, along with extensive domain expertise of the vertical being served.

Given this reality, satellite imagery providers have historically been forced into a business model where they own the entire value chain of imagery, attempting to sell the insights instead of pixels. But in recent years, there has been a huge uptick of companies who consume satellite imagery, combine it with other data sources, and use it to solve a very specific problem.  We’ve structured Albedo to be vertical-agnostic, in order to best support this growing ecosystem of vertical-focused experts that are disrupting legacy industries like property insurance, or solving some of the hardest climate challenges through honing in on a narrow part of the problem.

In a sense, we're unbundling the stack, as we see that as a key to unlocking a flourishing earth observation industry. Our product team is fully focused on delivering Imagery-as-a-Service and providing the best inputs to the next step in the stack, our customers. We believe this multi-step relationship is key to promoting solution diversity and in the end, will benefit all parties.

Prior to May 2020, the regulations on commercial remote sensing were rigid and inflexible.  There was a hard limit on the resolution you could sell commercially, limiting anything higher than 25cm to government customers only.  However, given the rise of commercial remote sensing and the gradual shift of government budgets to purchasing commercial data, the government created a new regulatory structure which provides a path to licensing novel capabilities. The new rules don’t necessarily allow any resolution, but given proper cooperation with the government to ensure protection of national security, we expect to obtain permissible licensing in the future.

Join Us!

Our team believes satellite imagery is a valuable resource that should both accessible and high quality. We are committed to our customers, focused on empowering them to develop analytics and gain insights for their customers and businesses. We are playing at the edges of how traditional New Space technologies have been approached, and we want to shake up the industry as it stands today.

While the journey ahead will hold its fair share of challenges, we're excited to hit the first important milestone of a long but fun adventure.  If you are kind, team-oriented, and ready to grind, come join us in building the future of earth observation.