Satellite imagery is like a looking glass covering earth. Joni and Lauri at Satellio have turned the beautiful views into useful products.

Near real-time satellite imagery is letting us build products that could not have been imagined before and saving us millions of hours of work.  Satellio is one of Icebreaker.vc's most recent investments creating products out of the beautiful satellite pictures. Read more about Satellio in the interview with Joni Norppa, co-founder, below.

Icebreaker (IB):

Hi, nice that you had time for this interview, how is everything going?

Joni:

Hi, everything is great. As you might know, the life of an entrepreneur is hectic, and as a father of two, my days are full of things to do. But I have enjoyed my time as a startup entrepreneur, and we are doing so much cool stuff at Satellio, so can’t complain.

IB:

Could you tell us a bit more about your background? How did you come up with the idea of Satellio?

Joni:

Yeah, so the past years I have lived in different places in Finland and worked in the service business. My studies revolved around the business, and now I am the CEO of Satellio. The idea of this project started three years ago when my friend, and co-founder, Lauri suggested the idea of starting a satellite image based company. I didn't have a clue what he was talking about, so I turned down the opportunity. A year later both of us acted as consultants on a project and while doing that we began to rethink about the satellite project. We realized that this kind of business has a lot of potential both in Finland and abroad with excellent scaling opportunities. Suddenly we were on our way to sign the papers, and the dreams of becoming an entrepreneur came to life. Even if I always have wanted to do something on my own, this was more of a twist of fate than a planned decision, but I assume that both of us are happy that it turned out this way.

IB:

You mentioned Lauri as the co-founder, but is there anyone else in your team?

Joni:

Yes, Lauri Häme and I are the founders, and we have known each other for a long time. We have been friends since high school, but our ways separated for a while due to the different interests and life situations, but now we have again joined our forces. He really is the brains of the company, the CTO with a Ph.D. in mathematics and a genuine interest in technological innovations. On the other hand, my role is to develop the commercial side and to bring Lauri’s and other team members brilliant ideas to the new users. Besides the two of us, we have a few other team members on board. As the business grows, more talent will be recruited.

IB:

So, could you tell us what does Satellio actually do?

Joni:

Satellio is a space data company providing Space data-based analysis and monitoring services for our clients. Our technology is built on the space data processing chains, automatic image scanning, and multi-source data merging. It may sound complicated, but in a nutshell what we do is utilizing existing multi-source data, open data and big data to produce new accurate information for our clients’ needs. We aim to be pioneers in the field of value-added services based on enriched space data. An example I usually use when simplifying our concept is the forest industry use-case, where our service is applied. Through satellite data, forests can be monitored or valued e.g., if you are planning on investing in Brazilian rainforests and want to know what it's worth.

IB:

That sounds so cool! But how competitive is this market?

Joni:

There are plenty of companies that produce space technology tools, but almost none in the niche field where we are operating. Some organisations, such as governments, are utilizing satellite imagery and of course, weather forecast companies who are advanced space data users too, but the purpose of it differs from ours. I would say that the biggest competitor is the old technology, aerial- or drone technology, that is very common nowadays. But in the future, satellite imagery will enable you to do the same a lot efficiently, and more! In conjunction with the development of the space data technology and when the benefits of it become clearer, the competition will grow. At that point, our business has evolved, and we are already a major player on the market which hopefully will secure our position.

IB:

As you mentioned this is a globally scalable business but which areas are you mainly focusing on?

Joni:

Forestry and infrastructure have been our primary focus for now. Satellio's services fits perfectly to this type of industries which extend to large areas. The market potential is huge, and this niche market contains endless possibilities for the future. We don't know yet where it will take us, but it’s important to eat the elephant one small piece at the time.

IB:

Who are the biggest users of all the data that comes from above?

Joni:

That is a good question. I assume that most commonly governments and the research institutions use space data – together with national defence organizations. Unfortunately, all the useful information is not usable to ordinary people and businesses, who could benefit a lot from it. That is what we are aiming for, to make this enormous load of data useful for daily operations.

IB:

There’s sometimes news about single homes that haven't existed when the new house owner has arrived to the site. Is this something your service could prevent?

Joni:

I have also heard these stories. Basically yes, every corner of the whole earth has been captured on satellite pictures from 700 km height. So, we could see if your house and some details from space as well. It is actually pretty cool that you can recognize a car model from 700 km. But,  I wouldn't recommend anyone buy "a pig in the bag" but instead see the house with their own eyes before closing the deal. But this form of captive data fits perfectly for larger forest areas that are hard to get an overview of even if you see it.

IB:

Have you been interested in space science or dreaming of becoming an astronaut?

Joni:

Not exactly, It hasn't been my childhood dream to become an astronaut or travel to the moon, but I have always been curious what’s happening up there. My interest has increased daily throughout our journey with Satellio. It is fascinating how much accurate information we get from the space and I see an enormous potential in it. I have been fortunate to get the opportunity to work with space stuff – something that not too many people have a chance to do.

IB:

Do you see space data as a thing for the future? And have you thought about launching a Satellio satellite into space someday?

Joni:

Yes, I think that it will play a significant role in the future, as it already does. There is an interesting development going on in field of space technology, where micro and nanosatellites are becoming more common in the private sector. They will revolutionize the industry due to their significantly lower costs. I guess it will increase the number of satellites, which will multiply the amount of data and at some point, give us live data too. It would be so cool to have an own satellite, and we have played with that thought. Maybe not soon but as we grow, you never know what the future brings, so the possibility of that surely exists.

IB:

Do you have any technology role models such as NASA or SPACE X? And what is your vision with Satellio?

Joni:

Well, I don't have any idols in that field even though Elon Musk for example is an amazing visionary and entrepreneur. Our vision is to become a global actor in space data analytics, helping companies use space assets in their daily operations. I am sure that during our lifetime we will see a great development in utilization of space technology. And Satellio is going to have a role there.

IB:

How has this entrepreneurial journey of yours been? And how has the cooperation with Icebreaker help you on that path?

Joni:

Entrepreneurship has always fascinated me and it seems that it runs in the family: we have entrepreneurs in three generations so it has felt rather natural role for me as well. It was a dream for me to start something own and it might have been the key driver for me to start this project. It has been a pleasure to work together with great people like the Icebreaker team and their community. The cooperation will surely enable faster growth for us. The support we have got from Icebreaker has been the most important part of our collaboration. They have shown a keen interest towards developing Satellio, and become a part of our extended team in a very positive way.



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