Auren Hoffman 0:01
Welcome to World of DaaS, a show for data enthusiasts. I'm your host, Auren Hoffman CEO of SafeGraph. For more conversations, videos, and transcripts, visit safegraph.com/podcasts.
Hello, fellow data nerds. My guest today is Peter Platzer. Peter is CEO of Spire, a company that owns and operates satellites that get signals from Earth. Spire recently went public and trades under the ticker SPIR. Peter, welcome to World of DaaS.
Peter Platzer 0:34
It is my pleasure to be here Auren. Thank you for having me.
Auren Hoffman 0:38
Oh, thank you. So I noticed Spire has launched over a hundred satellites. How many satellites are we at today? Or how many per month are you guys or quarter?
Peter Platzer 0:47
We always say it's about 100. We have launched, I think it's about 150 or so. Our constellation size is like off the range of 65 to 85 satellites. We currently have quite a bit more than that in operation. It is indeed the world's largest multi-purpose satellite constellation, and the world's largest constellation that uses radio frequency to collect data.
Auren Hoffman 1:21
Give us a sense of like how the cost curve. So we've got like developing the satellites. There's launching, and then there's maintaining the satellite once it's up there. How has the cost curve changed over the last 10 years? And how do you expect it to change over the next 10 years?
Peter Platzer 1:37
So you actually touched on a really interesting point that I think is often not really appreciated about what is happening in this industry. Right? You're talking about it from a cost perspective. Yes, you know, launch cost has come down. I think that's true over the last 10 years. But the satellites we're talking about here are satellites about the size of a bottle of wine, right, a loaf of bread. It's very similar to what happened when we replaced a mainframe computer with like a PC on our desk. That same kind of transformation. The same thing from a performance perspective is happening as well in space where the capability of that wine bottle size satellite is improving 10x every five years.
Auren Hoffman 2:30
Peter Platzer 2:31
So what is really driving that transformation here is the performance per kilogram, the performance per dollar.
Auren Hoffman 2:39
Peter Platzer 2:40
One is changing tenfold every five years.
Auren Hoffman 2:44
Oh, sorry. What you're saying is even though the dollars per kilogram is going down from the launch and stuff like that, that's one nice piece of the equation. But the more important one is that might be going down 50%, but the performance is going up 10x Or something.
Peter Platzer 3:01
You nailed it Auren. It's like this truly exponential change of performance per kilogram, performance per dollar.
Auren Hoffman 3:08
And is that just I like I can see that in my phone or something? Like the cameras getting better and you could just see the upgrades happening. As the as my phone gets better, you presume a satellite gets better.
Peter Platzer 3:19
That’s exactly the same thing. It's this exponential curve that you have seen. Moore's Law driving in the computer industry is now a similar thing driving this in the satellite industry. It was actually the piece of research that I did to see that, now it's 12, almost 15 years ago. It was the reason why we started the company in the first place, recognizing that here's a similar underlying fundamental trend that now has been going on for almost 25 years.
Auren Hoffman 3:53
Interesting. Now, I know like you guys don't focus on imagery, but in the imagery world, I get a sense like the lens is a pretty big piece of the of the equipment and as you want to get a higher fidelity, you need a bigger lens for the signals. Is there some sort of limiting factor like a lens would be for an imagery that that only somebody from the signals would understand?
Peter Platzer 4:24
Yes and no. It's a little bit like the quality of a microphone, right? It is not necessarily the size of the microphone that is driving the quality but like how it is made. Then the digital signal processing, which sits after inside the microphone and in many cases inside a computer. When you use radio frequencies to collect data, it's a very similar story. It starts off with very, very high bandwidth, large files. They're called often IQ files. That you then apply digital signal processing and filtering to extract information out of.
Auren Hoffman 5:09
And you're applying that filtering in the actual like little wine bottle satellite. And then I assume at some point, you have to do something local and then send it to the ground.
Peter Platzer 5:21
We do both Auren. One of the nice things and the reason why we are in the RF data field is that it is so software defined. You can literally change what type of data, what kind of data, what amount of data, what quality of data, a certain device, a certain sensor is collecting through software. So we do this processing both on board to satellite as well as on the ground for certain pieces.
Auren Hoffman 5:49
The processing onboard the satellite because the bandwidth costs or it's difficult to send all this data down? Like why do you process it locally first?
Peter Platzer 5:57
It's called computing at the edge. And you see this in a load of application on Earth as well. That there is a certain overhead when you transform or send back the raw data. And you can get rid of that overhead and in replace that overhead with lower latency of the data because you can transform more information, more knowledge. Because at the end of the day, our customers only in rare circumstances care about the raw data. They care about the answer to a question. In doing that on orbit, it's just more energy efficient than trying to do it on the ground. And it's faster as well.
Auren Hoffman 6:37
Oftentimes that Spire will get compared to like other companies like Planet. You both operate satellites. You both went public around the same time. Planet much more focused on imagery. Spire more focused on like broader signals. Obviously, there are many, many other players as well. Like how do you see the market evolving over time?
Peter Platzer 7:00
I think that's a great segue into a way to understand what is happening in this industry. And for that, I often use an analogy of the transportation industry. There are similar devices in the transportation industry that have windows and passengers and seats and captains and engines and steering wheels. We end up calling them planes, ships, and trucks. And everyone understands the difference between a plane, a truck, and a ship, right? Unfortunately, our industry still calls all of them a satellite and a satellite and a satellite. They are just as different from each other as a plane, a truck, and a ship. So indeed, there are companies that use visible light to collect data. Visible light, of course, it comes from the sun. So it has to be day. It would be good if there is good weather because otherwise you don't see much either. And it's particularly relevant over land. One of the things that I find extremely challenging about using satellites to take pictures is that for many, many applications, there are terrestrial alternatives. Drones, crop dusters, planes, helicopters, even self-driving cars.
Auren Hoffman 8:25
Peter Platzer 8:26
Balloons. I find it’s just challenging, right. The other element is you talked about the piece of glass of a camera as being a big and important component. A piece of glass is not very software defined. So once your camera is launched, it has limited things that you can do with it. Now there are very, very smart people that have worked with that and have built phenomenal data sources based on that capability. We are focusing on using RF signals because they work day and night. They work in bad weather, in good weather. They're completely independent, and it’s a software defined device, which means that we can change what it does even after it's launched. Then there is a third group of satellites, which are just [inaudible 9:16]. Many call them telecommunication satellites that provide broadband internet or satellite TV or other forms of communication. So I like to think of it as like looking satellites, which are the cameras, listening satellites, which use the RF, and talking satellites, which are the bandwidth providers.
Auren Hoffman 9:36
You have many different products that Spire has. One of the products you have is for like marine vessels. They give out this like AIS signal. And then essentially you're collecting these signals both from space and from the ground. Is that correct?
Peter Platzer 9:51
So we generally only collect stuff from space, and we only focus on data that can only and exclusively be captured from space. That is what we call our clean data layer. Then we add analytics to it, and then we add third party data sources to it. So in the marine space, we do add some terrestrial data on top of it as well so that our customers don't have to do the integration. We can answer questions for them, rather than just giving them a firehose of data and say you figure it out. We combine and we create smart data. In certain instances, we even create predictive data, predictive solutions that help them answer their business problems directly.
Auren Hoffman 10:40
Spire recently acquired a company called exactEarth, which I thought maybe had these ground stations to bring in the data. Does that help in a more holistic solution? Then do you also work with like other partners that have these ground stations?
Peter Platzer 10:56
So we do have other partners on the ground station side. exactEarth in particular is a company that has also space based data. And it has space based data that is more sensitive to its smaller vessels, augmenting our data storage there, and it has data which has lower latency. So for extremely time critical and sensitive applications and customers, that is now an additional product that we can offer them to solve their challenges.
Auren Hoffman 11:28
Why would it take longer to get the data from the satellite then from some other thing?
Peter Platzer 11:32
When you have a satellite that is collecting data over the 70% of the world which is oceans, it generally require some form of connectivity to the ground to get this data into the internet. So what often happens and what our constellation currently does is that it collects the data. And as the satellite travels further, it will then reach a ground station that is sitting on some piece of land. It might be like in the middle of a city or it might be on an island like St Helena or Falkland Islands. Then it's downloading the data over that piece of land, so to speak, and feeds it into the internet. Now there is something that you can do with satellites, and that is you can start to link them. We have started doing that linking of satellites because then a satellite can say, “Okay, I've collected some piece of data.”
Auren Hoffman 12:29
Maybe the satellite can see three other satellites, and those satellites happen to be over the ground or something.
Peter Platzer 12:34
Again, like you nailed it, right? And exactEarth has access in their data stream. That's what they do already today.
Auren Hoffman 12:43
Is it important for your satellites to be like lower to the earth, or they can be higher? Does it matter where it is to get these RF signals?
Peter Platzer 12:53
So there's a couple elements there. I would say that the primary element for us is that is a cleanliness and then environmental strategy. Our satellites are in an orbit where due to their size, the altitude, and the way they are built, they disintegrate into their atoms in just a few years’ time. Often much faster than a paper bag you might pick up at the supermarket. That means that we are really hyper responsible user of this public good called space.
Auren Hoffman 13:26
You don't want those space debris flying around.
Peter Platzer 13:29
We don't create any of that. So we're a company, which is pretty mission driven with regards to sustainability, climate change, weather risks due to climate change. Being a very, very responsible, and clean and sustainable actor just means a lot for us. There is a second element, which I don't want to hide here, which you know, I'm sure many of your listeners that come from the RF data world understand is that the lower you are, the better your signal to noise ratio gets. Which is a technical term for how easy is it to understand the information above the background noise. You can think of it as like you walk into a room at a party, right? It has a really bad signal to noise ratio, and you're trying to talk with someone because it's really, really loud. And what you do is you get really close to someone with your ear, like you close the distance, and then you can understand them and your signal to noise ratio just got better. A similar thing is happening here with satellites and Earth. So there is a benefit for being lower as well from the signal to noise ratio.
Auren Hoffman 14:45
Back to these marine vessels. When they're giving out these signals, what's in the signal that they give out? Is it GPS position? Is it they've got their own callsign? They talk about the type of ship they are? What are they giving out? Then how often are they giving out these signals?
Peter Platzer 15:03
It's a really rich information set. I think it's like over 20 different data points, and I don't know all of them off the top of my head. But it is name, location, speed, heading, origin, where you're coming, where you’re going, type of cargo, often how deep it sits in the water. So it is a really rich information set that they send out very, very frequently. So when I say very frequently, it depends on their speed and their location, but it can be every few seconds to every few minutes.
Auren Hoffman 15:38
Oh, wow. Okay. When you're collecting all this data, I imagine like you don't often need data every few seconds or maybe even every few minutes. Maybe you need once an hour or something from a ship or something. So is that one part of the post processing is just to throw away some of this additional data? Like it's not as necessary.
Peter Platzer 15:57
That's exactly right. So, for example, that is one of the data intelligence that we apply even already on the satellite. Like if we were to pick up a piece of information from a particular ship, and it is the same piece of information just within a few seconds, we actually don't download both of those pieces of information because they are literally redundant. And we only download that information, which is actually helping customers understand what is going on on the oceans.
Auren Hoffman 16:27
Now if I've got a ground station let's say at a port, and I'm picking up some of this information. Obviously, I'm really only getting the information in near the port. So that's the downside, I presume, of the ground station. What's the upside? Like, am I somehow getting better information than a satellite would get? Like, why would these ground stations be valuable?
Peter Platzer 16:46
There is, of course, a good amount of activity happening on the ports, right? I mean, that's where everyone congregates. The other thing that is the biggest advantage of those ground stations is that they don't have to wait to find a ground station to download the data from the satellite.
Auren Hoffman 17:06
They're connected to the internet right away.
Peter Platzer 17:08
That's exactly right.
Auren Hoffman 17:09
So right when the ship comes in, I know. Right when the ship goes out, I know.
Peter Platzer 17:14
The problem is you only know it for a very short period of time. Right? More 80% of the time a ship is out of sight, so to speak, from the land where you could place a receiver. So the majority of the time you have--You used to have no information about over 90% of global trade.
Auren Hoffman 17:39
The way I see is what AIS for marine vessels, ADS is for planes. Is that a good analogy?
Peter Platzer 17:46
That's a very good analogy. Both were created for safety reasons. They were originally meant to be picked up by vessels in their vicinity. Then we have deployed a technology which listens and picks up to that information from space.
Auren Hoffman 18:05
Because these planes are moving at a much, much faster speed than the marine vessels do, is it more complicated to get these signals from space? Or does it make it easier, or does not make a difference?
Peter Platzer 18:19
There is a difference in terms of technical complexity, but I wouldn't say it is massive.
Auren Hoffman 18:25
Okay. Is there anything like super unique about what these planes are giving out that's different from what a marine vessel is giving out? I presume also they're giving out their position, maybe their altitude, some of these other types of things.
Peter Platzer 18:41
So of course, the information from planes is four dimensional plus the time versus a three dimensional piece of information from the ships. It also is in a richer protocol where there is more additional information which could be embedded. On a principle basis, it is very, very similar between ADS-B and AIS.
Auren Hoffman 19:09
I can imagine with just like a ship, a plane will have like an identifier or let's say a tail number or some other type of thing. But also might be like the United Airlines flight 2207 or something like that going from Chicago to Singapore. Right. So it's got this like other kind of identifier for this particular mission that this plane is on. Do you understand like both of those things from this ADS signals?
Peter Platzer 19:38
So we as a company do. I don't believe it is actually immediately directly broadcasted through the ADS-B information.
Auren Hoffman 19:51
Okay so you're getting it from like other information that's got like a flight trackers or other types of things that are happening.
Peter Platzer 19:57
Well flight trackers, those tend to be customer of ours. But there is other datasets which you can fuse into to identify things like who the plane belongs to, and what flight it is, and what its flight schedule is. So that you can create a product where you, for example, have discrepancies between the schedule and where the actual location of the plane is. You don't have to guess because you can actually hear the plane, and you know where it should be based on its on its flight plan. You can see and alert things if there are discrepancies about it.
Auren Hoffman 20:42
Got it, if there's some sort of deviation from the plan or some other type of thing. That's super interesting. Then do all planes have ADS or only like… Does a prop plane have it as well?
Peter Platzer 20:56
Again, very, very similar to ships where the legally mandated one is for ships greater than 300 tons. And planes is greater than I think 17 passengers and 67,500 pounds of takeoff weight. So, again, the vast majority of planes have it but not every single one of them is mandated to have it. Now increasingly, people do install it because it is a really, really nice safety feature. The smaller the plane, you're less likely to fly in international waters, but you might fly and remote regions. Being able to track you is just an additional safety feature. So more and more planes are having those devices installed.
Auren Hoffman 21:50
Can you imagine for like smaller flying objects like a drone or something like that, like they would have these types of things in the future? Or is that just like unlikely to happen?
Peter Platzer 22:00
So here I'm just gonna be a personal speculator. It's hard for me to imagine that in a world where drones and and self-flying cars take off in the way those in the know of these industries predict that people will not want to know where they are and they are not in some shape or form tracked given the particular sensitivity with regards to security that we have in the airspace across the world. So my sense would be that there is going to be some ongoing identification going on so that those objects do not collide with other objects of the same size, or even worse, larger objects like passenger planes and create problems.
Auren Hoffman 22:52
In the US, would that be a regulatory body like the FAA which kind of mandates those things, you think? Or how does that evolve?
Peter Platzer 23:01
Again, speculating, and I'm not a pilot here, but my sense is that yes, it would be something from a regulatory body. I do believe that the FAA would be the appropriate authority. I do believe it's the authority that gives, right now, all of the drone regulations where they can fly beyond line of sight, which airspaces they can enter or not. So that would be, my guess, the regulatory entity that would drive the adoption of certain identification and security and safety measures that allow a wider adoption and use of that technology.
Auren Hoffman 23:39
Okay, so I know you've got these kind of like a bunch of different products that you guys do. I think I have a really good understanding of why you want to track like marine vessels, why you want to do planes, and how you do it. But you have this other product, which is really about understanding the weather. And this one was harder for me to understand. So can you can explain us a little bit more about like what types of signals are you getting from the ground? Then how does that help us understand the weather better?
Peter Platzer 24:11
So weather prediction is generally driven by data from space. If you think about weather can move hundreds of miles in just a few hours. So with something like you know, 95% of the world's population living on 5% of the world's surface area, where you could have ground based sensors. Weather is created and moves from areas where we have no sensors, think of like the 75% of the world which is remote region, deserts, and oceans and stuff into areas where there actually are people and businesses and stuff like that, right? So you need space to measure the weather all over the globe so that you can predict it where certain human or economic activity is happening. So something like 80% of weather forecast accuracy is driven by data from satellites. If you think about the core elements of weather, what's the temperature? It's called moisture. Basically what is like is it raining or is it likely to rain? Or is there is that hail or is snow? What's the wind, right? We call it pressure. There is a very, I would say, a smart way of measuring those elements that the incredibly ingenious people at NASA tried out for the first time—I think it was in the 70s—to measure whether an atmospheric properties on Mars. Now, if you think about that, that old high school experiment where you took like a prism of glass and you shone it ray of light on it, and it gets bent into the rainbow colors. Or when you swim on the water, you look outside, and people look a little bit funny. That is the bending of light beams as they go through a medium that is thicker than air. And what we do with using radio frequency is exactly the same thing. It's just not rays of light. It's rays of radio frequency based electromagnetic waves. And as they go through the atmosphere, they bend just like light bends as it goes through water or goes through that glass prism. We can measure that bending as that RF signal goes through the atmosphere. The amount it bends is driven by things like the temperature, the pressure, and the moisture. So by measuring the bending of it and a few other properties, and a lot of math and physics, you end up being able to derive very detailed temperature profiles and in turn pressure profiles, and to some degree moisture profiles. And they then drive weather forecast accuracy improvements as one of the data sources that flows into those so called numerical weather prediction models.
Auren Hoffman 27:32
Are you like gridding the earth? Are you putting some sort of square or hex grid and then and then you're taking temperatures of that grid? How do you relay this information?
Peter Platzer 27:45
So we relay that information not that dissimilar from what you just described. It is a three dimensional piece of information set because it has vertical information as well. It's like a very, very fine levels of on the vertical. It is measured all across the globe. As a matter of fact as far as we know, Spire collects more of this so called radio occultation data then the rest of the world combined. Then we take that pieces of information and we make it available on one hand to public entities whose mission it is to protect life and property of the public. They fuse it into their models and come up with their weather forecasts. And then Spire also has, we were the first company to do that, a global numerical weather prediction model. Where we incorporate a number of data sources, like the terabytes of data, including the data that we uniquely produce and process to drive weather prediction products that are not just a general this is what the weather is going to be, but that really help corporations and in certain instances governments to fulfill their mission. An offshore power plant which wants to know how much wind is actually going to blow so that they can tell the grade exactly how much energy they're going to produce. A logistics company which needs to understand how much delay I'm going to have in my supply chain because of weather disruption. Agricultural companies trying to understand on one hand, when should I harvest? Should I actually water today or tomorrow based on what the weather is going to be? All the way to more extreme weather events like a freezing event. Remember we had we had earlier this year in Texas or a hurricane or a deep snow storm you know that hit Colorado that have massive impacts on large infrastructures like an airport, like an airline. All of those events are happening increasingly often. Because climate change is exerting it’s influence on humanity through evermore extreme weather patterns.
Auren Hoffman 30:16
Now, I want to get a couple of questions about just like the business model and stuff. So when we had a conversation with Will Marshall, who's the CEO of Planet Labs, on World of DaaS. And he was really insistent that Planet was a data company and not a satellite or space company. Do you see Spire in a similar way? How do you think of Spire as what it produces?
Peter Platzer 30:38
Spire was conceived from day one as a data company. Our principle from day one was we are a company about data that can only and exclusively be gathered from space. That was our first pillar. Our second pillar was that it’s data, which can only be captured from a constellation of satellites. The third one was that it is a software defined device that you can change on orbit. We have been this data and analytics company from day one, integrating the collection of the data, and then driving analytics and predictions based on this data in one integrated fashion inside the company from day one when we started the company nine years ago.
Auren Hoffman 31:27
So you have this primary data that you're getting, but then you also have the analytics. I assume some of your customers are also kind of analytics companies that might want to like, package their own analytics, and sell them. How do you think about those types of companies because they in some ways they could compete with you on your analytics? Like, how do you see some of these other companies long term?
Peter Platzer 31:54
So we really thrive on helping our customers grow their business faster, more profitably, and more sustainably. And so we use our analytics to help them drive their business. It is more a matter of degree rather than by narrowly, it is either data or analytics. It's just for example, we talked about flight plans and flight planning beforehand. Just fusing a flight level plan data with our tracking data together just removes one step in the process for, let’s say, an application service provider in servicing, let's say, a ground operations company at an airport terminal to optimize their level of operations. There is a whole lot more that they have to do to really serve that customer. The more we can take off from them of stuff that they don't have to do and they can just leverage right out of the box, the easier it is for them to grow their business faster, more profitably, and more sustainably.
Auren Hoffman 33:04
And how do you like price the data?
Peter Platzer 33:07
I think that is a fascinating question Auren. There is generally some form of alternative that people have that helps you identify what the right price is going to be. And then there is genuinely a sense of how much cost are you helping the customer take out of their system? How much benefit is creating for them? And then the rule of thumb that I have seen and people have talked to me about in the data and analytic space is that as a painkiller, meaning that you remove some cost for a customer, you can charge and capture around 20%. 80% of the created benefit goes to the customer. Now, that's a rule of thumb across various industries. I think that's a good benchmark to think about. You don't want to be too aggressive, even if you could because you have a strong position in in sharing that value creation. Because that creates stronger long term relationships, and more long term and growth and benefits.
Auren Hoffman 34:25
Now, today, I think most of Spire customers are large organizations that probably pay very high dollars for this data and analytics. Have you thought about like some sort of self-serve go to market motion where you can have thousands, maybe even millions of very small customers?
Peter Platzer 34:45
So the universe of customers for us is in the hundreds of thousands. We do have, as you said, hundreds of customers today. Maybe this self-serve model is something worthwhile to look into. So far, we have not made any big investments in seeing if that is a model that really helps a larger number of customers solve their business challenges.
Auren Hoffman 35:17
Because you can imagine like if I was an engineer, I might want to just start playing with the data real quick. Maybe I don't have a huge budget myself. Maybe I'll have a few hundred dollars a month, but I can start like playing with a small amount of the data and building an application. Then I get excited about it and then maybe I'm part of a large organization that moves up the chain or something. Maybe some of these engineers don't want to talk to a salesperson. You can see how this like could be really valuable as a go to market motion.
Peter Platzer 35:45
Absolutely Auren. There definitely are use cases for that. At the end of the day for us, it's really important to understand the customer and solve their challenges. They are often driven from an organizational level rather than from an individual level. But I absolutely want one to not discount what you're saying, as indeed that could be a driver for helping even more people solve the challenges and opportunities that they face with a data set that is really quite unique and really, really hard to capture. Because by the definition of how we've built it, the data set requires a large satellite constellation.
Auren Hoffman 36:35
You sell this data, it's super valuable. But if you think of just the broader world of just understanding the world, there's probably lots of other data. Data is an ingredient that goes into a decision. Where I work, SafeGraph, we sell geospatial data about like places. There's like Costars, CoreLogic. There's all these different companies that have different data. How do you see yourself partnering with these like other companies that also provide data?
Peter Platzer 37:02
That's exactly what we do with application service providers. So application service providers that solve a particular use case for an industry, they generally take in data from multiple providers and integrate it. In certain instances, we can help adoption and growth of their business model by combining maybe with two or three other data sets already internally from us. So that when they integrate us, they don't have to integrate three or four data sets. They just get one API, which has those three or four data sets already integrated making their life easier, their go to market faster, and their business grow more sustainably and more profitably.
Auren Hoffman 37:51
Typically, like the biggest customers for satellite data are either national security organizations or some sort of governmental organizations. I imagine that the go to market motion for that type of customer is very, very different than for a typical, let's say you're selling to a bank or something. How do you think about working with those types of customers?
Peter Platzer 38:11
So I think there is a relationship to this sales motion and the size of the contract and the size of the organization. And when you think of the government, it is a very, very large organization. I mean we are talking about the market cap of Apple about to reach 3 trillion as the first company in the world to do so. I don't know what the market cap of the United States government is, but I can tell you that it’s revenue that is producing is like trillions of dollar every single year. Which I do think is still just a wee bit larger than the revenue that is produced by even Apple at this point in time. So I think the relationship just changes with the size of your customer and the size of the contract. The size of the contract is just a measurement of like the size of the problem that you are solving for your customer.
Auren Hoffman 39:17
You're now a public company. Why did you choose to go that route? Why did you choose to go via SPAC? Could have stayed private longer. Like what went into that decision? How did you how did you end up making that decision?
Peter Platzer 39:30
Well, you actually laid out the answer almost just a few minutes ago by saying we sell to large corporations, we sell to governments. And the only other thing that we also do is we sell to international corporations. Now when you sell to those types of entities, they want to know that you're going to be around. They want to have transparency about you. They have a hard time going up to their CRO. So we recognized that to give our customers more comfort with what we are doing, and really drive sales to large corporations, international corporations, and governments, being a public company is stressful for us, but really helpful for the customer. And that is the only thing that matters.
Auren Hoffman 40:25
Alright, a couple personal questions. I know that you used to be like a, an FX researcher and trader at a hedge fund. That's an interesting career path from there to where you're at today, CEO of a big data and space company. How did that prepare you to better do what you're doing today at Spire?
Peter Platzer 40:45
So I was, of course, a physicist in my first life. I did a wee bit of time at CERN and we wee bit of time at the Max Planck Institute, and always had this fascination with leveraging space to solve problems on Earth. But it was an industry that was excruciatingly slow. It was not very dynamic. I'm a software developer since a teenager. Always had like a bit of a business mindset. I had a small company. So I wanted something more dynamic. So I actually ended up with the Boston Consulting Group in Germany. Then they sent me to Asia working with financial institutions, with energy institutions, stock exchanges, futures exchanges, and really spent a lot of time around the markets. So when they then sent me to Harvard Business School, I did two things there. One is I really dove into this understanding of the markets, and how they are a reflection of the future of the world, right? I mean, the markets are discounted cash flow of future business. In a sense are always trying to understand what is going to happen in the future. That is something I find fascinating. The other thing is I wrote a mission statement for my life by reading a book, which is called The Path from Lori Beth Jones, which leads you through a number of steps. And in the end, give you a very simple sentence that encapsulates a mission statement for your life. Which for me came out to be to lead, inspire, and create the business of space for the benefit of all.
Auren Hoffman 42:24
And you knew this even before you went into space.
Peter Platzer 42:26
I wrote this almost 25 years ago.
Auren Hoffman 42:29
Oh my gosh, okay.
Peter Platzer 42:31
But there was nothing to be done in space. It was just slow, right? And so that's why I ended up doing quantitative investment management focused on emerging markets, always looking in diagonal transformational technologies.
Auren Hoffman 42:45
You already knew 25 years ago you wanted to do something in space. So I imagine you're trying to set yourself up to do something like right work for some sort of like quant fund. Why does that set yourself up for that?
Peter Platzer 42:58
So it's not quite how you said. As I said, even as a teenager I was really fascinated with this idea of leveraging space to solve problems on Earth. But there was nothing to be done in space. So I worked at places that allowed me to use other means to understand how the world works and solve problems on earth, right? I traveled to 65/70 countries. I lived in I don’t know how many countries on one, two, three, four continents, right. So that's what you do as a consultant, right? You know, in business school, we read about a thousand cases of businesses with particular problems. And when you are a quantitative investment manager, you build financial models, quantitative models that try to understand what is happening in the world today, and what is going to happen in the future. It's always about understanding the world and what is going to happen.
Auren Hoffman 43:57
Okay, so now it makes it makes a lot of sense. If you're like a macro, hedge fund person, you're trying to understand the world and where the world is today, where the world might have been that people don't understand, and where the world is going. In some ways space isn’t really about space, space is really about the Earth, right? You're pointing everything at the Earth. You're collecting it on the earth, and you're trying to understand the same thing about the Earth.
Peter Platzer 44:22
It’s all about earth. Like one thing that is just really at the center for us is there's a lot of people are talking about moon and Mars and Venus and asteroids and all sorts of other things. For us, it is solely about Earth, leveraging space to solve problems on Earth, with data that is unique and powerful because of that ultimate vantage point from which it is collected.
Auren Hoffman 44:53
Alright, last question we ask all of our guests. What is the conventional wisdom or advice that is generally bad advice?
Peter Platzer 45:00
It's not possible.
Auren Hoffman 45:02
It's not possible. So anyone who says it's not possible.
Peter Platzer 45:05
Whenever someone tells you it's not possible, don't even ask why. Ask how would it be possible because it dramatically changes your brain by not looking for why it is not possible. Go directly to how would it be possible.
Auren Hoffman 45:22
Got it. So what would have to happen for this to actually be possible. Maybe there's something has to be invented or we'd have to reorganize the government or you know whatever it might be. Okay.
Peter Platzer 45:34
The conventional wisdom when we started the company was that A, the nanosatellites we use a toys that will never amount to anything. I did a research study which showed that. Number two to do what we said 9/10 years ago that we will do, some very, very smart scientists from like very preeminent institutions in the U.S. said, “Well they will have to break a few laws of physics.” Today they are actually really good customers, and we solve several problems for them. So, I would say that conventional wisdom of as everyone knows this is not possible, just do not believe that.
Auren Hoffman 46:14
Okay, this is great. Peter, thank you so much. Tell us where people can find either more about you or more about Spire on the on the broader interwebs.
Peter Platzer 46:23
So we are of course at the web wwe.spire.com. We are constantly and aggressively hiring. So go to www.spire.com/careers. You can find out more about me on LinkedIn. That's where I'm most active. I do have a Twitter, but it's not as active. You can find me on LinkedIn as www.linkedin.com/in/peterplatzer, or you can just search for my name there.
Auren Hoffman 46:48
Okay. Perfect. Awesome. Peter, thank you so much for being with us at World of DaaS.
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