“To infinity and beyond,” famously was the catchphrase of animated astronaut Buzz Lightyear, and it could just as easily apply to Connektica, a small space startup with big plans.
Connektica is more than a Toy Story though. Rather, the startup is a serious satellite component testing firm that closed a $2.7 million CAD seed round in September. The net new funds will enable the startup to expand and hire more staff.
“You need to be able to produce cheap satellites while meeting the quality.”
Connektica occupies a specialized niche in the space industry, employing automated testing solutions for manufacturers and contractors. Initially, the startup focused on radio frequency (RF) testing for satellite integrators and component manufacturers, but has since expanded its range of quality assurance testing.
Of the $2.7 million, a portion is non-dilutive funding from the National Research Council, while the remaining is equity from Boreal Ventures, Space.VC, and the RAO Family Irrevocable Trust. Connecktica did not disclose the lead investor as well as another French investor.
Space.VC describes itself as a seed stage Venture Capital fund investing at the intersection of space, software, climate, deep tech, and beyond, while Boreal Ventures “strives to fund Quebec’s most promising deep tech startups.”
Jeremy Perrin, co-founded of Connektica with Jean-Mathieu Deschenes, told BetaKit that “for all the business models, you need to be able to produce cheap satellites while meeting the quality. As more companies launch constellations of satellites for uses such as telecommunications, they look to produce satellites that are smaller, faster and cheaper.”
Incidentally, some of Space.VC’s other space investments through the $20 million fund include the Hubble Network and SpaceX. The former is a satellite network that claims it is connecting billions of bluetooth devices; while the latter is Elon Musk’s spacecraft manufacturer, spacecraft launcher, and satellite network.
While Connektica doesn’t yet work directly with the satellite manufacturers, such as Telesat, it currently deals with integrators and suppliers. The former includes Canadian company MDA, which provides antennas and subsystems to satellites.
Connektica has since expanded from automating RF testing for hardware engineering teams to encompass thermal and mechanical testing. The startup claims that its platform enables companies to standardize and automate their tests, reducing the time it takes and the costs involved.
The startup earns revenues selling licences to its platform to integrators that redistribute them to suppliers, or by selling directly to suppliers. In the latter instance, Connektica relies on a software-as-a-service model, depending on such factors as the number of sites using the platform, and the complexity of the testing.
Founded in 2019, Connektica operates in both Canada and France with its headquarters in Gatineau, Quebec. As it turns out, Perrin was born in France, but came to Canada in 2008 to study at the engineering school Polytechnique Montréal.
It’s no accident that MDA is one of Connektica’s first customers. Perrin worked for MDA where he was responsible for tests and automation for a satellite constellation. It was there that Perrin realized that smaller companies could benefit from a similar technology, at which point he decided to co-found Connektica with Deschenes.
Since then, the startup has passed through several incubators, including Creative Destruction Lab’s space stream in Toronto, where it was the only Canadian company in its cohort.
Currently, the startup has 10 employees, but hopes to hire another 10 by March 2023, evenly divided between Canada and France.
Finding the right staff is actually one of the big challenges facing the small startup. “The product we’re building is pretty challenging in terms of technology, so we need very high-skilled people,” noted Perrin.
Connektica’s team might be small, the opportunity before them is huge. The market for low-earth-orbit (LEO) satellites includes not only such large players as the aforementioned Telesat and SpaceX, but also Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space program as they all fight for space supremacy in order to supply affordable high-speed internet connectivity.
While Connektica is pleased with its progress to date, Perrin doesn’t hide his ambition, noting, “the idea is at some point is we would also like to provide our platforms to an operator like Telesat.”