Google pays $500M for satellite-imaging startup
Buying Skybox for its imaging capabilities, for starters
Google Inc.’s quest for information and the means to deliver it is taking the company far from earth.
Google on Tuesday agreed to buy satellite startup Skybox Imaging Inc. for $500 million in cash, the latest in a number of moves by the world’s largest Internet search provider to collect and provide data from the sky.
Skybox has designed small, relatively cheap satellites that can collect daily photos and video of the Earth. Founded in 2009, Skybox raised $94 million from investors including Khosla Ventures, Bessemer Venture Partners and Norwest Venture Partners, according to Dow Jones VentureSource. Its founders wrote their first business plan as part of a Stanford University graduate entrepreneurship course, according to the company’s website.
Google said it is buying Skybox mainly for its image capabilities, at least initially. Google also is trying to cover the globe with fast Internet access from the sky, using balloons, drones and satellites. The goal is to get everyone in the world online, which would likely increase the number of Google searches and boost the company’s advertising revenue, as well as usage of services such as Gmail and Maps.
“People want connectivity everywhere and images from everywhere in the world and you just can’t do that as easily from the ground,” said Tim Farrar, president of satellite research firm TMF Associates. “Satellites will help Google reach remote mountains and dense jungles more easily, filling in the places where you can’t justify building terrestrial networks.”
Skybox’s roughly 120 employees will initially work with Google’s Maps business. Google Maps uses images from roughly 1,000 sources currently, including commercially available satellite images. Most of these images of the Earth are updated every few months or years.