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Launching TerraWatch Space
An attempt to improve the awareness and adoption of satellite data
I am officially launching TerraWatch Space with a mission to make Earth observation mainstream. Some thoughts on the story behind why I founded TerraWatch space, what it is about and couple of ideas on how I would like to see it evolve.
Note #1: For the purposes of clarity, my definition of Earth observation includes all forms of satellite-based remote sensing - so, essentially all kinds of data, imagery and signals from any sensor on-board satellites (including weather). It also includes segments of the space industry that are significant for making EO what it is today.
Note #2: I am fully aware satellite data is usually not the solution and in fact, most solutions require a combination of a number of data sources from various mediums, but I believe that satellite data is where there is a need for awareness and advisory.
TL;DR: I founded TerraWatch Space to make satellite data mainstream. My thesis is that requires a combination of two things:
a) improved awareness and understanding of Earth observation
b) strategic support to build EO, adopt EO and invest in EO
And that is exactly what I am building: the former by leveraging the TerraWatch Space Podcast and Newsletter as not only a marketing platform for EO industry, but also make it an accessible resource for everyone, outside the EO bubble - with analysis, insights and deep-dives on EO.; the latter with advisory services across the three functions with the different parties involved - both independently and together on strategic assignments.
I want to build a course, organise a conference and do more, but I will focus on executing the two things above, consistently, to start with.
You can look into my LinkedIn profile to know what I have done in the past decade and see how my career has progressed, but what it does not convey is my fascination, interest and borderline obsession with Earth observation, specifically data acquired by satellites and its potential to change our understanding of the planet, our life on it and the relationship between the two. So, if you have been curious, that should explain why my social media feeds look the way they do, why I started writing about the subject and why I talk about it so much on my podcast.
My experience being a consultant in the space industry, specifically focused on EO for the past five years has exposed me to the hundreds of companies working on some exciting sensors, building impactful satellite constellations, developing innovative algorithms and creating meaningful products, derived from satellite data. That along with my work with space agencies, companies, investors and organisations that are trying to use satellite data has led to me towards two important learnings:
1. The need for a purposeful communication platform with an intention to demystify EO for all
If you follow me on socials or read my blog, I have discussed enough about how, as an industry, we talk too much about technology and not enough about what the technology does for the people. And to top that, EO does not get enough attention in the space industry, partially because it is not actually understood.
2. The need for an objective, yet holistic framework for organisations looking to adopt EO
Let’s say we succeed in achieving #1, yet that’s only part of the problems solved. I have written about this before, but essentially it boils down to supporting organisations that are interested in using satellite data to get their job done - essentially, a services layer aka a bridge between the technology and the users.
No single entity or organisation is incentivised to be holistic and objective today, except perhaps the space agencies some small companies, who work on a project basis to build customised EO-driven products for organisations. Every EO company today is incentivised to push their own technology and products (and rightfully so), but it is my belief that most problems for customers cannot be solved without an objective, holistic view of the entire EO market.
You get the idea, you have read pitches before. This is where I explain why my idea is incredible and the single best thing since sliced bread. And yes, I will get to it.
But, before I do that, I am going to be. This is my thesis and I don’t know if it is going to work. I hope this is one of the many things that makes EO go mainstream. Frankly, if I get about 5 people outside the EO bubble to understand the EO market with analysis & insights or 3 EO companies to market their brands to the intended audience using my podcast & newsletter or just 1 organisation to build a satellite data adoption strategy, I will have succeeded (yup, that’s my worst case metric).
But, thankfully, I think I am already there - I may have already achieved those goals over the past couple of years, albeit somewhat serendipitously. More than 5 people have read my analysis & insights on my blog to understand EO, more than 3 companies have featured on my newsletter & podcast and marketed their brands, and I have worked with more than 1 organisation to help them with their satellite data adoption strategy. TerraWatch Space is just my way of doing all the above formally.
What is TerraWatch Space?
A strategic advisory and communications firm to improve the awareness and adoption of satellite data, particularly outside the bubble.
TerraWatch Advisory for Building, Adopting and Investing in Earth Observation
Essentially, I want to operate within the Venn diagram of those who are building Earth observation, investing in Earth observation and adopting Earth observation.
As part of the advisory business, I am going to be doing more of what I was doing in the past couple years.
Continue working with space agencies and Earth observation companies on market analysis, go-to-market strategy, marketing, business development, impact assignments and more.
Continue working with investors and other professionals on market insights, due diligence, business plans and more.
But, what I want to do more of is working with organisations using/interested in using satellite data and products - advising them on their satellite data adoption strategy.
Why would any organisation need support on satellite data adoption?
The global Earth observation ecosystem is rapidly growing and incredibly fragmented. I believe this creates the need for a comprehensive overview of the overall landscape and the benchmarking of relevant players for your particular use case.
And, moreover, as I mentioned previously, nobody is incentivised to be holistic and objective today, as every company within the ecosystem is (logically) incentivised to push their own technology and solutions. Problem-solving requires an objective, independent and holistic approach – and that’s what I want to offer to organisations, interesting in exploring the use of satellite data. Basically, help them build:
A roadmap for adoption of satellite data & products which would include an assessment of the user needs, cost-benefit analysis, evaluation criteria and recommendations for effective integration of satellite data.
TerraWatch Insights for Marketing and Communicating Earth Observation
This, of course, leverages my podcast and newsletter to demystify EO, satellite data and its applications. And, how do I aim to do that?
TerraWatch Space Newsletter
If you have read my work before, I will continue to do the same, much less sporadically, more consistently. In any case, the following is my plan for the newsletter:
Analysis & Insights - On the 1st day of every month, an analysis of the 8 most interesting developments in Earth observation from the past month, titled “8-Things EO.” (like this one)
Market Deep-Dives - On the 15th day of every month, a long-form piece analysing the trends, opportunities for satellite data and key players within a specific market (like this one, but better).
Company Deep-Dives - On the 25th day of every month, an in-depth assessment of a company in the Earth observation industry with an overview, differentiators, opportunities and more (first one, coming up later this month).
Apart from these, there might be other miscellaneous content, potentially sponsored ones, but all of which aimed at demystifying EO, satellite data and its applications.
Analysis, Insights & Deep-Dives on Satellite Data and Applications.
TerraWatch Space Podcast
If you have listened to my podcast before, I will continue to do the same, more focused on EO and space technologies relevant to EO, but more importantly making sure that the podcast is accessible outside the EO bubble. New episodes will go out every Wednesday, but I want to try and do something (hopefully) creative:
Company Spotlight - The first episode of the month will feature an innovative company in Earth observation – building advanced sensors, launching satellites or developing satellite-data driven products. I believe companies within EO need more exposure, just more purposefully. There will be sponsorships possible, which I shall soon share on socials.
Startup of the Month - The last episode of the month will highlight a promising Earth observation startup - founded less than 3 years ago or with less than 10 full-time employees or raised less than $5M funding, and preferably from a part of the world that we don’t usually talk about. Some of the startups are building some truly incredible & impactful things, so this is just my way of bringing them some attention (for free) that they deserve. More on this soon via. social media.
With thousands of folks listening to my podcast, I have realised I have accidentally built something that I didn’t intend to, it was meant to be a hobby. So, this is just an attempt to make the podcast formal, but more impactful while remaining purposeful.
And, what is my business model?
Consulting will always be consulting - per hour, per day, per project etc. That’s the easy part.
But, what made me scratch my heads was how to make money out of my other business - the communications side. I decided to hire myself as my own consultant for the past couple of weeks, and here’s what I came up with (subject to change).
Ads - Good fit for organisations to improve brand awareness, promote new announcements, advertise upcoming events and more.
Featured Content - Good fit for covering, analysing and discussing a product launch, case study, major developments, funding announcements and more.
Sponsorships - Good fit for organisations to build extended brand awareness, audience relationship building, continuous updates and more.
What’s on my roadmap?
In the mid-term (Q1/Q2 2023), I want to launch a course, one that focuses on “demystifying Earth observation for all.” I strongly believe that the future of EO lies in our ability to attract more outsiders to get into the EO industry - be it software engineers, data scientists or marketing experts. In the next couple of years, I want to make sure I don’t meet the same people in the EO conferences (I still love you EO community, but we need to expand outside). So, hopefully I can play my part with an accessible, easy-to-understand EO course, accessible for all.
In the long-term (Q2/Q3 2023), I want to try and organise a conference focused on the commercial adoption and applications of Earth observation, specifically aimed at those outside the bubble. My aim is to make this conference the go-to event for anyone and any organisation interested in using and learning about satellite data. It’s a huge effort, but I know it will be worth it. Reach out, if you want to chat about it.
Finally, why am I writing about this?
I want to build in public. I am trying to build something old (advisory and communications isn’t a radical idea) in a nascent, yet rapidly developing industry that is EO. I believe it is in my interest to share successes, failures and thoughts to everyone who is interested, so that we can learn together. I am fully aware that my efforts are a drop in the ocean in the goal of making satellite data mainstream - I know many who are doing some great things, but I would like to share the journey with everyone that’s interested in following along, and perhaps, collaborate.
Occasionally, I may do blog posts, but I intend to share over Twitter and maybe, LinkedIn, on a monthly basis - specifically the last Sunday of each month. Building a company as a solo entrepreneur (for now!) can be lonely. So, thanks in advance to anyone who wants to give me company and feedback :)
See you next time.
Aravind | Founder, TerraWatch Space