What started formerly as a drone package delivery service, has evolved now to be a world-leading aerial data analytics company. Today we sat down with Vishal Punamiya CEO of Sitemark, a Startupbootcamp Transportation & Energy Berlin 2016 alumni, that has recently raised 5M Euros in their latest funding round. Check out the interview below.
Hello Vishal! Tell us something about your professional background and how you started Sitemark?
Sitemark (formerly known as DroneGrid) was founded in 2016, with a team of 3 people; Vishal, Stan, and Max and a clear vision to provide an end-to-end drone operations solution that helps customers achieve operational efficiencies through the use of high-quality aerial data. Phew! That’s a mouthful, but let’s back up a little and give some background about how Sitemark came to be. Originally the idea for the company was to offer a networked drone package delivery service, and the guys even went as far as building a drone and docking station, hence the original name. They quickly realized this might have been a little too out there at the time, but knew they were onto something with drones. The drone industry was starting to explode, and the more you read on the internet, everyone was using them, or so we thought. Once they began to meet customers, they quickly realized that we were ahead of the game, and some of our earliest customers weren’t even using drones at the time. However, Eneco, a Belgian energy company, saw the potential and became Sitemark’s first customer in the solar/PV industry. Eneco started with an inspection of one site and was so impressed with the insight we provided they decided to inspect their entire Belgian portfolio that summer and the rest is history.
What pain point are you solving, and how?
Sitemark’s mission is to connect people, assets, and information, creating insight through the use of aerial data. Whether it’s in solar, construction, agriculture, or mining, we see our customers wanting to digitize and analyze their assets. For many, the time, expense, and challenge of converting existing properties into a digital world was prohibitive. Drones entered the picture, and it changed things forever. It’s now possible to fly over your asset or site and, depending on the size, have a digitalized version within 30 minutes in a resolution never seen before. The combination of drones, photogrammetry, and AI, coming together at the right time and the right quality, solves the pain points of our customers.
In the solar/PV industry, Sitemark’s software is based on Artificial Intelligence (AI) to help inspect solar panels for damage and mechanical failure. Using thermal and high-definition imagery, we can reduce operating costs and increase energy production, as well as monitor every solar plant construction project and its evolution. Every image is analyzed with state-of-the-art machine learning algorithms, and anomalies are detected, classified, and localized.
In the construction industry, we help free up surveying teams to concentrate on more complex and high-value tasks. Organizations can measure volume, grade, and distance with a few clicks or compare site data against the design files. Sitemark’s Fuse platform enables teams to work remotely and reduces the need for regular site visits. Easy-to-use tools enable measurements, annotations, and even allow you to generate PDF or CSV reports for monthly reporting with stakeholders.
In short, we manage the complete workflow for customers to focus on what truly matters: the data.
What markets are you currently targeting, and how are you planning to expand your business in other markets?
The Solar/PV industry will always remain one of our core verticals, and we will continue to focus on becoming the most qualified and trusted AI-powered Aerial Data Platform across the globe, a goal that we are well on the way to achieving. The construction vertical will also receive a much greater focus in 2020. We will develop 3D data products and tools that help build a robust architecture that will future proof the platform going forward. We are also part of some exciting EU projects such as Monocle, SMEI 2020 (one of the only Belgian companies to receive the funding), and the Analyst Project. The funding from these projects helps us expand into other markets.
Any recent progress and achievements?
We are very excited about some recent news. In September, Sitemark closed our latest round of capital funding and raised 5 million euros, with our existing investor, Chroma Impact Investment, and Kory’s (the investment arm of the Colruyt family). It’s another very exciting milestone for Sitemark and a testament to the work and confidence that our investors have in our organization.
What are your goals for next year?
This new investment will allow Sitemark to further capitalize on its position as a growing market leader within the AI-driven, aerial data analytics industry. We have ambitious plans for next year as the proceeds will be used to accelerate growth and aggressively expand our Sales, Marketing, and Engineering teams, doubling the workforce during 2019 – 2020. We will also continue to establish our worldwide presence and accelerate the development of our portfolio of products.
How did the Startupbootcamp Smart Transportation & Energy Berlin support your growth ?
Startupbootcamp provided us with the initial funding that we needed to kick start our business and provided invaluable mentoring, connections, and introductions to strategic customers. Even now, we see the benefits of being part of the accelerator as we recently subscribed to Hubspot and received a substantial discount on the fees due to being part of Startupbootcamp.
Final words of wisdom to fellow founders
It’s simple, have a great team around you that you trust, and hire people that are way smarter than you 😉