As some of the biggest emitters of greenhouse gasses, the mining and agriculture industries have been seen as enemies of the environment. Now, a Melbourne-based startup is helping these industries become more climate friendly through data from space image technology.
What is the market reach of Esper?
Esper Satellite Imagery is the brainchild of 22-year-old Shoaib Iqbal, who is in his final year of his Bachelor of Space Science studies. Within three short years of founding the business, Shoaib has grown Esper to a team of eight (all under 25), signed on 15 firms, with 40 clients in the pipeline, and secured $150 million in client pre-orders for satellite data and imagery.
At just 19, Shoaib bootstrapped the business with $500,000 raised through early believers and angel investors. He and co-founder Przemyslaw Lorenczak embarked on the mission to use tech for climate applications to help firms reduce their impact on the environment. They did this by building satellite cameras to take pictures of Earth to provide advanced imagery.
Shoaib combined his formal space studies and own appetite for self-learning with an innovation and entrepreneurship program by edtech company HEX (startwithhex.com). It armed him with real-life skills on innovation and founding a startup, including going from ideation to prototype, pitching to investors, raising capital and networking with businesses.
Now, Esper is raising US$4 million in seed funding for the emerging space tech startup. HEX CEO and founder Jeanette Cheah – an award-winning edtech innovator and speaker – has joined the company as an advisor and been vital in providing Shoaib with introductions to investors and other experts and providing guidance as the startup continues to grow.
Why is Esper a unique offering?
While the tech has been around for some years, Esper is among the first in the world to use Hyperspectral Satellite Imagery at a commercial level in space. Also known as spectral satellite imagery, this sees satellite images overlaid with hundreds of layers of spectral data to capture wavelengths of light, which is invisible to the human eye and normal cameras.
In addition, the innovative Esper helps companies in various ways; from understanding what lies beneath the Earth’s surface to help agribusinesses, to looking at trade routes for potential oil spills for maritime use cases, to working with oil and gas companies to track and lower emissions, and looking at methane leakages in natural gas plants and gas pipelines.
Shoaib Iqbal, CEO of Esper Satellite Imagery, says the HEX program was instrumental in helping him develop Esper and taught him all about the startup ecosystem. “The past three years have been a whirlwind – building a startup is super turbulent and it’s not easy. However, we’ve built a strong network of advisers along the way, from Jeanette to the HEX alumni and business leaders we’ve met through the program, who are all super supportive,” Shoaib said.
“I can just shoot a message when I need advice and bounce ideas off. As a young startup founder without much life experience, the HEX program connected us to other founders who are all on different stages in their journey and helped us grow our network. We even hired a data engineer who we met through HEX. We’ve been able to learn vicariously through those who have done it before, and have people to look up to through our HEX network.”
Last month, Shoaib was also shortlisted for the Forbes Asia 30 Under 30. Over the next year, Esper will be launching two more satellites, with the total goal of 18 by 2025. The seed funding, set to close mid-year, will help the startup achieve this target and further expand.