1 Year Since Officially Launching TerraWatch
Some thoughts as I look back and look ahead
Hey! I am on holiday right now, taking some much-needed break away from everything. So, instead of the usual Monday newsletter, I am sending you this piece that summarises the past, present and future of TerraWatch. We will be back to the usual rhythm from the following Monday. Have a good week!
I wanted to summarise my thoughts on building TerraWatch Space, for those curious about my journey so far. Here is a somewhat structured collection of my thoughts as I look back at the past year and look ahead to the next exciting one. Here’s what we have got in store.
What is TerraWatch Space?
Marketing & Communication
1. What is TerraWatch Space?
improved awareness and understanding of the value of EO;
strategic support to build EO, adopt EO and invest in EO.
And that is what I chose to build:
by making TerraWatch Space the go-to resource on EO for everyone, both inside and outside the EO bubble, through analysis, insights and deep-dives into the EO market and the applications of EO;
by providing strategic consulting services for EO companies, space industry players, investors, space agencies and end-users of EO.
2. Looking Back
I have to say the last year has exceeded expectations - if you had told me 10 years ago when I was living in India, going to my day job as a software engineer at Amazon, that I would be living in France, running my own company and working in EO with some of the best minds and organisations around the world, I would have probably not understood you2.
Over the last year, TerraWatch has grown, changed and matured and so has my thesis for the existence of TerraWatch. Let’s look at it across three sections:
a. Strategic Consulting
The consulting business was, by far, the most successful arm of TerraWatch in the last year3. Instead of setting my goals in pure revenue terms ($), I set them in terms of the number and variety of customers (#). I had set a goal to have worked with at least 12 customers over the past year, but thankfully, I did manage to work with about 20 customers, in total.
As a reminder, the consulting projects I work on can be typically classified into four categories:
Strategy & Go-to-Market (for EO Companies / Space Companies)
I worked with over a dozen EO companies in the past year on short (2-week) to long (8-week) assignments, supporting the development of their growth strategy, go-to-market plans, pricing model, partnership options and more. I was lucky enough to work with companies that were both in the realm of Earth observation - building EO satellites (aka upstream), creating software products based on EO data (aka downstream) as well as in the wider space industry - satellite manufacturing, launch providers and EO payload suppliers.
EO Adoption Strategy (for End-Users of EO)
These were my favourite kind of assignments working with organisations in verticals such as insurance, banking, mining, agriculture, utilities, forestry and the like, who were interested in understanding if using EO for solving a business problem, translating their needs into EO use cases and developing a strategy for the adoption of EO. If you have followed me on social media, I have posted several nuggets of my takeaways from these projects - it has been truly a reality check for both myself on the value of EO as well as a validation of its potential.
Commercial Due Diligence (for Investors)
Obviously, these were not the most common as TerraWatch is not one of the major global consulting names, which happens to work on many of these assignments, but I had a few investors (both in venture capital and private equity), who reached out to have some diligence done on the investments in EO they were making. My value-add came from highlighting major red flags, risks and opportunities they may have missed, but need to be aware of - either before making the investment and/or going through with the acquisition.
Miscellaneous (ad-hoc projects for a variety of customers)
As much as I want TerraWatch to be a strategic consulting firm, every now and then, an inbound project arrives that is a research project that lets me explore interesting topics (most likely applications of EO), or an ad-hoc piece of work in which I contribute as an expert on a selected subject. Usually, I remain quite selective in this category, but thankfully, over the past year, I got to work with some organisations that were doing some interesting work.
b. TerraWatch Newsletter/Blog
Frankly, I have trouble deciding whether I should call this the newsletter or the blog, as it has elements of both.
The Free Newsletter / Blog
I am thankful that many of you read the weekly newsletter, that is sent out every Monday. I started this journey earlier this year to start a newsletter that would curate the most important developments in EO, along with some nuggets of analysis and insights from TerraWatch. A whopping 7,800+ of you read the newsletter from over 120 countries, which is absolutely heartwarming4.
While putting together this newsletter takes up almost a day’s work, it will continue to remain free. I believe that this newsletter, along with the free deep-dives I publish occasionally, is foundational knowledge that should never be outside the reach of any individual on the planet.
The Paid Newsletter / Blog
Earlier this year, I launched the paid newsletter to provide exclusive analysis and deep dives for the subscribers. Honestly, I was not sure if this was going to work, as EO is an extremely niche domain and in general, people are very selective about how they spend their money. My promise to the paid subscribers was exclusive content that will enhance their knowledge and understanding of EO, in exchange for about $130 per year.
I have been extremely surprised by the number of people who have chosen to upgrade to the paid version of the newsletter (currently over 120). It has given me enough financial cushion to take time to write deep-dive essays (like this one) while also letting me continue to write the weekly newsletter. There are a number of exclusive deep dives coming up through the year for paid subscribers. This is just the start and I hope to provide more exclusive insights and expand the offering over the coming year.
c. TerraWatch Podcast
After over 75 episodes, I decided to take a break from podcasting earlier this year. Several of you, both within and outside EO, have told me that the podcast has been extremely valuable for your understanding of the sector. It continues to make me happy to hear such good feedback, as that was the only thing that kept me going through the 2 years.
I will write about the experience and learnings from the podcasting journey at some point, but the decision to stop doing the podcasts was purely a result of two things: the value of time and the change of priorities. Every episode of the podcast took, on average, 8 - 10 hours to prepare, record, edit and publish. Given most episodes did not have sponsors, it took a lot of my weekends. Moreover, as you will see below, I have two other projects in the pipeline (the EO course and the EO conference), which made me have to choose and I ended up choosing to put the podcast on hiatus.
I hope to be back to podcasting either later this year or early next year. There are several conversations to be had, questions to be asked and companies to be discovered in EO. If you have been a listener of the podcast so far, thank you.
3. Looking Ahead
This has already become a lengthy piece, so I will try to keep this one short. There are basically three major things to look forward to over the coming year: Marketing & Communication offer, the EO Course and the EO Conference.
As always, in true TerraWatch fashion, I have got a visual to keep you hooked and get the message across faster.
I recently unveiled this offering on the website, through which I hope to work with EO companies to support their marketing and branding efforts. Over the past year, I worked with companies such as SkyFi, Earth Blox and Spire to help position them in the market and improve their brand awareness.
As I have often mentioned, EO lacks the awareness it deserves, whether it is in mainstream media, in conferences or even on social media. So, using the community I have built on TerraWatch, I hope to provide organisations with a platform to provide thought leadership and improve their overall reach to the audience that matters (which is not an audience from the EO bubble, but rather end-users from different verticals who are readers of TerraWatch).
Building up this offering over the past year has been fascinating particularly as I speak to marketing and communication folks from EO companies, and hear their challenges. I hope a number of you reading this can benefit from seeing more thought leadership and branded content on this blog (see more here).
b. The EO Course
I am convinced that we need more outsiders working in Earth observation in order to take it to the next level and make it mainstream. So, I am putting together an EO business course, aimed at professionals who are both working in EO and who would like to work in EO, to provide them with a fundamental understanding of EO - everything they need to know to either work in EO, or start an EO company, or invest in an EO company.
While there are several online courses from NASA, ESA and other space agencies that teach the science of EO, there are hardly any resources to understand the commercial aspects of EO. This is exactly what this course will be. My expected outcomes for the course are the following, but not limited to:
For the EO enthusiasts to get enough technical and commercial context so that some of them end up transitioning into sales/marketing/product roles in the EO companies or end up starting one - in other words, to help them answer, “What can I do in the EO industry?”;
For the new entrants, who have just joined EO companies to help them get onboarded within their respective organisations and get a bird’s eye view of the EO sector - in other words, to help them answer, “How can I learn just about enough to get started with my job in EO?”;
For the end-users of EO data/products to get an overview of the state of EO, the market landscape, the technological capabilities and why it is relevant - in other words, to help them answer, “Why should I care about EO?”;
The course will be a live, cohort-based course conducted fully online, with a maximum of 50 folks per cohort. The sessions will be a combination of lectures from me, lectures from guest speakers and Q&A with EO industry leaders.
The first cohort is scheduled for Q4 2023 (October/November), with the second one planned for Q1 2024 (February/March). Stay tuned for dates, pricing and registration, coming up in early September.
c. The EO Conference
This has been my goal for a while, and it is finally starting to come together. I am organising an EO conference to be attended equally by the EO community as well as the end-users of EO.
You may have seen that I curated a list of almost all EO-related global conferences planned for 2023 and shared it with everyone. From my research one thing is clear: there is no EO conference that is aimed at bringing the EO industry together to showcase their capabilities and no EO conference that is accessible to the end-users of EO where they can go to learn about the emerging trends, technologies and companies in EO. Almost every conference I have come across is “an event for everyone within the EO bubble”. This event focused on commercial and enterprise EO applications is an attempt to change that.
The goals of the EO Summit are:
To bring the global EO industry together
To bridge the gap between EO & end users
To evangelise the applications of EO
There will be keynotes from industry experts, thought leaders and policymakers, panel discussions in parallel across 3 tracks - insurance & finance, energy & utilities, agriculture & forestry and an expo to showcase EO solutions, conduct side events and network with the community.
The first EO Summit is tentatively scheduled for Q2 2024 (June), at a location to be confirmed. Stay tuned for more updates on sponsorships, registrations, speakers, agenda and other details, coming up in late September.
TerraWatch is not an event organiser, nor an expert in logistics. So, I will be partnering with interested parties in pulling this off. More importantly, this will be a purely sponsor-driven and registration-based event, with the goal of simply managing all the expenses in organising such an event. I am going to start the event on a smaller scale (for a maximum of 300 people). So, if you are reading this, understand this gap and have the same goal, do get in touch.
Building and running TerraWatch while being an immigrant in a foreign country has not been the easiest task, but much of what I have accomplished has been a result of some good people with kind hearts who have supported me, mentored me and encouraged me.
I started TerraWatch to continue to work in EO, while at the same time evangelising the potential of this technology, improving its awareness outside the EO bubble and in that process, contributing to making EO mainstream. That vision has not changed and is what drives me to do everything I do. Thanks for all the support!
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The brand called TerraWatch had existed since 2021 when I launched the podcast and started writing the blog posts, but an independent entity with a vision was not born until August 2022.
I am certain that I had no idea what Earth observation meant in 2013 and I had no plans on moving on from the software industry.
I do not have a full-time team, but I have a group of talented individuals who I work with on a freelance basis. Without some of them, I would not have managed to deliver all the projects. If you want to work with me, just send me a note.
The caveat is just 10 countries make up about 80% of the readership, I am adamant that I want to change this and get more readers from around the world reading it. I will not stop until the distribution becomes meaningfully diverse.