One year after SpaceX bought it, Swarm is pushing into new markets

The IoT satellite company aims to be in 40 countries before 2024, up from 17 this year.
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Swarm Technologies

· 3 min read

About a year ago, the most prominent space company bought a startup making sandwich-shaped nanosatellites.

The year since has been eventful for Swarm Technologies as it has settled into its role as a subsidiary of SpaceX, which acquired the company in August 2021 for an undisclosed sum.

SpaceX doesn’t have a history of making acquisitions—in fact, Swarm was its first—so the company has spent the past year navigating its new position as an acquihire for the space-industry titan. Sara Spangelo, CEO and co-founder of Swarm Technologies, told Emerging Tech Brew that SpaceX and Starlink have opened new doors for Swarm.

In particular, now that Swarm can tap into SpaceX’s existing relationships, Spangelo said the company has found it easier to navigate one of its biggest challenges: regulatory approvals. She said SpaceX’s ownership has made it easier for Swarm to enter new markets—the company has added six new countries in the last year, she said, and in total has won approval to operate in 17. Spangelo said Swarm’s goal is to more than double that figure to 40 countries by the end of 2023.

Spangelo named Brazil as an example where SpaceX was able to step in, providing Swarm with local entities the government required for operation in the country and making introductions. Spangelo said Swarm previously lacked the relationships, time, or money to lay the groundwork for regulatory approval in certain countries prior to the acquisition.

Spangelo called this “a pretty big unlock for us in some of these more complicated countries.”

Swarm’s tech is used by companies to beam small amounts of data from locations that lack connectivity. Two examples: It works with Rainforest Connection, which installs solar-powered acoustic sensors in the Brazilian rainforest that are designed to detect and report illegal logging and poaching operations, and OffGridBox, a Boston-based company that uses Swarm’s satellites to relay data on the status of solar panels it installs in remote East African villages.

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In the past year, Swarm has multiplied both its sales and production rates by 10x, while only adding 10 new employees, according to Spangelo. She said the company expanded from 35 employees last year to 45 today, but declined to provide figures on sales and production of its satellites.

Since 2021, Swarm has deployed its full constellation of 160 satellites, which Spangelo said can now operate with under an hour of latency, transmitting data from ground to the sky and back again, as well as opening new use cases and attracting more interest from potential customers.

Spangelo said average network latencies have decreased from several hours to just under an hour in 2022, which has enabled the company to better support more time-sensitive use cases, like Berlin-based Dryad Networks, which uses Swarm’s tech to relay wildfire detections to authorities before they spread into a conflagration.

Looking ahead…Jonathan Lacoste, general partner at Space.VC, which has invested in SpaceX, told Emerging Tech Brew in an email he sees Swarm and the IoT market as a whole as “an incredibly interesting opportunity for companies and consumers,” adding that “other large telecommunications companies will try to build, invest, or buy similar service providers as Swarm.”

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