Previously Google bought drone-maker Titan Aerospace last month and now it's in talks to buy Skybox Imaging, a startup that creates high-resolution satellite images, for $1 billion.
The two apparently go hand-in-hand for Google which uses high-resolution satellite images for Google Maps and its business-to-business branch, Earth Enterprise, which creates maps for companies, according to TechCrunch. Previously Google was also looking at other satellite imaging companies such as Planet Labs, but has now zeroed in on the Mountain View, Calif. company.
Skybox previously raised $70 million in 2012 and was valued around $600 million, but Google's reported $1 billion is making the deal happen, according to an unnamed TechCrunch source.
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“A constellation of small imaging satellites, like what we already have in place today with RapidEye or what Skybox may have in the future, would give Google a very reliable, rich content source for imagery analytics and related applications,” Scott Soenen, CTO at another satellite company, BlackBridge, told TechCrunch.
Skybox, founded in 2009 by Julian Mann, Dan Berkenstock, Ching-Yu Hu, and John Fenwick in 2009, has created a way to commercialize data and images, but it's not clear how much money the startup is generating. Unfortunately, TechCrunch is reporting a rumor that Skybox is running out of money and either needs to raise funds now or sell. It also is basing all of its data on one of its satellites now in orbit and is relying on Russian spacecraft for the next few launches -- and U.S.-Russian relations aren't good.
The report seems a bit confusing to us. Why buy a struggling satellite imaging startup for $1 billion when it's obviously a fire sale? There are also dozens of companies doing what Skybox does, so it's not clear why Google is setting its heart on Skybox. Sure, it's in its backyard, but that's hardly the central reason to spend $1 billion on a startup. Perhaps this news is all a smokescreen for Google to buy something else in secret, or a way to drum up much-needed venture capital for Skybox.