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UP42’s 1st Anniversary: Looking Back and Ahead

Sean Wiid

Today, UP42 celebrates 1 year since our “coming of age”. Our CPO, Sean Wiid, looks back to this time last year and reflects on the achievements and challenges of the past year—as well as insights into what comes next for UP42.

Looking back

UP42 was born from the idea to democratize access to geospatial data and analytics. Our name is a playful reference to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, where 42 is the answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything.

Founded by Airbus Defence and Space, we were incubated by BCG Digital Ventures and spent our first 6 months in a short incubation period under their wing researching, prototyping, and collaborating with partners while growing our team.

On 6 May 2019, we unveiled the company under the stars at Berlin’s Zeiss Großplanetarium. The launch marked the day that BCG DV stepped back and we released our platform into closed beta.

Launch Event

Launch Event Planetarium

That was only 3 months after I joined as the CPO. It was an intense period of learning and creating. Launch day was a day to remember— we had speeches from Thomas Jarzombek, National Coordinator of the Federal Government for Aerospace, and Dirk Hoke, CEO of Airbus Defence and Space. Our co-creation partners at the time, LiveEO, Simularity, and Orbital Insight, also took to the stage. Having supported us since the beginning, our co-creation partners were and still are valuable sources of insight and inspiration.

This time last year, our product was in very early phases. We had managed to build our marketplace, block-based processing pipelines as well as offer around 15 data and processing blocks on our marketplace. At the time, we were a small team of 15 people—most of them having been with UP42 for only a few months and handing over from our BCG DV team. May 2019 was significant for us not only because we launched, but we also moved out of the BCG DV offices and into our very own Berlin office days before the launch event.

UP42 Office

The last year

Since our launch event, we have come on in leaps and bounds. We progressed rapidly from beta to full commercial launch in September. Having partnered with over 20 data and analytics partners, we have brought 75 data and processing blocks onto our platform with many more coming soon. The platform has also matured significantly with new capabilities such as Catalog Search, enabling cross data search over areas of interest, and extended GPU availability. Over 4000 people have signed up for our platform and we’re helping our customers solve problems in precision agriculture, infrastructure monitoring, environmental monitoring and predicting economic activity.

Our team has also grown over the past year. We’re now a team of 38 from 20 countries—our team has grown so much over the past year that we’re almost ready to move out of what was our new office this time last year! I’m grateful for a team that embraces experimentation, accepts mistakes as learning opportunities, and owns their topics to the end. It's how we work together that enables us to build something truly unique in the market.

What we do is different not only in terms of our simple, building-block approach to stringing together data and processing in an accessible way—but also in terms of the revenue-share model we have with our partners. We help developers and analytics companies to publish their algorithms on our marketplace. Ranging from simple data preparation steps all the way to high-value analytics such as NDVI and machine learning-based object detection and classification.

Romania-workflow1b

I must say, it has not all been easy. Moving fast means sometimes things break, and often things are not as easy as we thought. Solving the problems we set out to solve is a huge engineering endeavour. And while our business model of sharing revenue with data and algorithm partners is simple enough conceptually, building a product that supports this at scale is not.

We also strive to be a truly neutral marketplace and open to everyone. We started with Airbus Pleiades, SPOT, and WorldDEM data, and now have open and varied datasets such as ESA’s Copernicus program, NASA’s MODIS, as well as weather data and will soon be onboarding new satellite, aerial imagery and AIS data sources.

The current COVID-19 crisis is a challenge the world faces and we’re no exception. Our team is safe and has adjusted well to work remotely. We are offering our support to those working on COVID-19 related initiatives. The hope is that we can give something back during these uncertain times and help to remotely monitor and assess the impact of COVID-19 across the globe.

Looking forward

While we’ve had a strong start and we are extremely proud of how much we have accomplished over the last year—we also know that we are still at the beginning of our journey.

Our current imperative is to grow our ecosystem of partners and customers to the point where the network effect and economies of scale start to kick in. Which takes time. In the meantime, we’re focused on two main priorities:

  1. Bringing on new data partners and making it easier for people to find and use data on our platform
  2. Making it easier for companies to use UP42 at scale in their operations

At UP42 we believe that in order for us to be successful in the long run, we must focus on being a developer first platform. As such, we are continuously working on creating a strong developer experience. We are therefore proud to announce the general availability of the UP42 Python SDK. This open-source SDK makes it significantly easier to work with data and processing on UP42, including integration into Jupyter Notebooks.

We’re looking forward to exploring the kinds of industries that could benefit from easy access to geospatial data and satellite imagery. I would love to encourage people to try UP42. We offer free credits to get you started, and are very open to hear any and all feedback about your needs. Whatever you’re trying to achieve in the geospatial sector, let us help you get there.

Sean Wiid

Chief Product Officer at UP42

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