Infostellar raises $7.3M for its ‘Airbnb for satellite antenna’ rental services



Going beyond the bounds of our planet is the future.

Elon Musk wants to take us to the moon and the likes of SoftBank want to use satellites orbiting the world to solve global connectivity. That explains why Infostellar, a platform that enables antenna sharing to enable better communication for satellites and spacecrafts, exists — and also why it has raised $7.3 million to build out its business.

Infostellar, in the most basic terms, is Airbnb for satellite antennas.

The company operates a platform that connects satellite owners and operators with those who own and operate antennas. The idea is that, as is the case with Airbnb, unused inventory is monetized when it is lying idle because it is not being used by its owner.

Key to the platform is the fact that a single antenna only has a 40-minute conversation window with a geo-stationary satellite per day.

“If an operator wants to get into more comms windows they will need more antennas in different sites,” Infostellar CEO Naomi Kurahara told TechCrunch in an interview. “It’s difficult, so we provide a platform to share antennas to get a longer communications window.”

The Infostellar service is currently pre-launch, but a limited beta with a handful of selected partners will open in October. The objective is to make it more widely available with a launch in early 2018.

This Series A funding round was led by strategic investor Airbus Ventures, with participation from WERU Investment, D4V, Sony Innovation Fund and existing investors FreakOut Holdings and 500 Startups Japan.

Currently, the business model is focused around taking a cut of revenue generated on the platform. Because antenna owners operate satellites too, Infostellar will offer a credit system that allows rental time to be exchanged directly for an opportunity to utilize other antennas, though it is confident most customers will need to pay beyond using credits.

The team is considering the possibility that it might co-invest in the creation of new antennas in the future, with the condition that the antenna comes live on its site. However, that policy is still to be decided.

Further into the future, Kurahara said she wants the platform to cover communication options outside of the earth — for example aiding with trips to Mars or other planets. But that will require the market, technology and consumer demand to be present first.

“The space age is coming, in that future the infrastructure is also required but unfortunately it doesn’t exist today,” the Infostellar CEO said. “NASA and the U.S. government haven’t built this kind of infrastructure by themselves, I think it should be developed by businesses.”

That is some way off. For now, following the funding, Infostellar plans to scale its Tokyo-based business. It plans to add 20 new members of staff to its current team of 10 ahead of the launch of the platform.



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