Investment

Family/principal investment groups back surveillance specialist

In an age of uncertainty and conflict, few corporate investment opportunities can better appeal to investors than space surveillance specialist HawkEye 360.

Since 2015, the business has just raised $150 million from a string of investors taking its total haul to $300 million. 

HawkEye has mapped radio wave signals which show how China is behaving in the South China Sea, an area of growing tension with the West. It has monitored broadcasts by a Chinese fishing fleet off the Galapagos Islands, an area of scientific interest

Its backers include Gula Tech Adventures, run by Ron and Cyndi Gula; Advance, the investment and holding group led by the Newhouse family, and UK-listed Seraphim Space investment trust, where Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Galactic, is a shareholder.

A more historic investor is family office Dorilton Capital which bought the Formula 1 Williams racing team in 2020.  Dorilton’s beneficial owner is not known, but media reports have linked the business to Calvin Lo, an insurance expert. This has never been confirmed. 

HawkEye 360 forms part of a growing interest in investments designed to make revenues out of space travel. 

Following a court judgement, Nasa has awarded a $3 billion contract to Elon Musk’s SpaceX to land astronauts on the moon undermining a bid by Blue Origin, led by Jeff Bezos. According to data provider Space Cadet, $8.7 billion was invested in 112 projects in the third quarter of 2021 taking the total to $231 billion for 1650 projects. 

In the wake of Cop 26, climate tech will be increasingly used to monitor climate deals, with transactions worth $58 billion likely to be signed in 2021, says Silicon Valley Bank.

HawkEye 360 uses clusters of satellites to map radio frequencies transmitted across the earth, with a view to tracking the activities which lie behind them. 

It has mapped radio wave signals which show how China is behaving in the South China Sea, an area of growing tension with the West. It has monitored broadcasts by a Chinese fishing fleet off the Galapagos Islands, an area of scientific interest. 

HawkEye has worked with Garamba National Park, Congo, to examine how radio waves can be used to monitor the activities of poachers.  It discovered Iranian tankers crossing to Syria to avoid sanctions.  It has been monitored supply chains in China, for signs of recovery after the pandemic.

HawkEye says it is bound by US legislation which stops it monitoring private conversations. But big data on radio noise can be powerful. And it can be monitored night and day.

According to HawkEye chief executive John Serafini: “We are ideally situated to create great value for the defence, intelligence and security communities, but also to change the paradigm for complex challenges like illegal fishing, poaching, marine smuggling and environmental degradation.” He has military training and a background in national security. Prior to HawkEye he was senior vice president for intellectual property group Allied Minds. 

Jacobs, the US engineer, has signed up as a corporate investor along with Airbus, Raytheon, Sumitomo Corporation and the United Arab Emirates’ Strategic Development Fund.

But US-based Gula Tech has much broader ambition to invest in businesses that “defend the country’s cyberspace” and offers training to US citizens. The Gulas also know their way around the cyber security scene, after developing Tenable Network Security and taking it to a $3 billion IPO in 2018. Since then, its value has doubled to $6 billion. A Legal & General ETF that invests in cyber security stocks has also performed well with a 90% return over three years.

The co-lead on HawkEye’s latest fundraising was Insight Partners, which is highly rated in the VC market.  The other co-lead was Seraphim Space, led by Mark Boggett, which emerged from an IPO in July. It has invested in twenty space companies, with HawkEye the first new deal in three months. Other HawkEye investors comprise specialist space and cyber funds, Silicon Valley Bank and 116 Street Ventures which has a decent record for spotting VC deals for alumni from Columbia University. 

 

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