With $5.5M in seed funding, Spexi moves its aerial imagery business to the blockchain
The startup joins a growing group of companies testing the power of decentralized networks and token rewards in their business models.
Spexi, a platform for drone-based data, has secured USD $5.5 million in seed funding as it seeks to transform its SaaS business into a Web3-powered marketplace on the Flow blockchain.
The round was led by Blockchange Ventures. Protocol Labs, InDro Robotics, Alliance DAO, FJ Labs, Dapper Labs, Vinny Lingham, Adam Jackson, and CyLon Ventures. Fort Capital was the financial advisor on the raise.
From SaaS to scale
Led by aerospace industry veteran Bill Lakeland, Spexi was initially launched in 2017 as a software service that enabled organizations to commission drone flights, capture imagery, and gather insights. Demand was strong from a slate of diverse customers like engineering firms and federal government agencies.
From one perspective, it’s a thriving industry. However, most imagery in this sector has been collected on a project-by-project basis and over relatively small geographic areas, according to Spexi chief operating officer Alec Wilson.
Most notably, he says, the data collected typically remain private, with little benefit to others. But Wilson believes there’s a significant opportunity to leverage individual drone pilots to make aerial imagery available to everyone. The trick is to incentivize enough of them to pitch in – or take flight. Enter Spexigon, Spexi’s new “fly-to-earn” concept.
With Spexigon, Wilson says the company aims to motivate people at scale “to do things in the real world that produce a real product.” He adds, “So in our situation, people that own drones can earn crypto in return for collecting data on our system, and uploading it to our system, which we then sell to customers.” By capturing imagery in advance of demand, pilots will be awarded $SPEXI tokens.
Any organizations that need high-resolution aerial imagery will no longer need to own their drones or hire their own pilots. Theoretically, they could now use Spexi’s web and mobile app to search for and purchase imagery – then use it however they want.
Potential and pitfalls
Spexi joins a new, growing group of startups testing the power of decentralized networks and token rewards in their business models.
Hivemapper, for example – a San Francisco-based startup that raised $18 million – bills itself as the world’s first decentralized mapping network. With Hivemapper, a user simply affixes a dashcam to the windshield or dashboard of a car and it automatically transfers collected imagery to the Hivemapper Network through an app on a phone. Drivers are rewarded with a token called HONEY, and theoretically, the end result is a map that is constantly being updated and is collectively owned by its contributors.
In the case of Hivemapper, it demands that users purchase new hardware to benefit from its rewards, with no guarantees. Helium – another firm that has received criticism for the disparity between how much capital it’s raised versus generated – requires a similar upfront purchase by users looking to benefit from its rewards scheme.
How Spexi is potentially different
With Spexi, Wilson contends that its users already own the drones that the company is standardizing on. “There are already millions of them out there,” he says.
“We're going to give the drone another utility and turn it into a little crypto miner, basically, which is one of the reasons we're so excited about the scale,” Wilson outlines.
His team is watching some of these earlier examples and making notes. “We're taking these things and looking at them closely, and going to be implementing the learnings in our strategy,” he adds.
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