Saildrone Inc., a provider of ocean data collected by a fleet of unmanned, autonomous sailing drones, announced today that it has closed $14 million in Series A funding. The round was led by Social Capital with investments from the Capricorn Investment Group and Lux Capital. This follows the mission-related investment from The Schmidt Family Foundation, a private foundation created by Eric and Wendy Schmidt. The Series A round of funding will be used to expand Saildrone's fleet of sailing drones, enhance Saildrone's data processing capacity, and scale commercial operations.
"We're thrilled to be partnering with like-minded investors, who are mission driven and have deep expertise in marrying innovative hardware with big data," said Richard Jenkins, founder and CEO of Saildrone. "Data collected by the saildrones will not only transform the understanding of our oceans, but will also bring insight into issues like weather, fish populations, ocean acidification, and climate change—processes that will affect every person on this planet. Understanding these processes, and their rate of change, is crucial to our economies and ultimately, our survival."
In 2009, Jenkins broke the wind powered world speed record (126.2 mph). He then applied the wing technology developed during the 10-year project to the creation of sailing drones, founding Saildrone in 2012. After a proof of concept journey from San Francisco to Hawaii in 2013, the drones were transformed into sophisticated ocean and atmospheric measurement devices, in close partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Saildrones have now sailed over 60,000 nautical miles, with missions in the Atlantic, Pacific, Gulf of Mexico, and Bering Sea.
At the end of 2015, Sebastien de Halleux joined Saildrone as COO to help scale operations. Sebastien brings entrepreneurial experience from the video games industry, where large data sets, rapid growth, and innovative technologies are key. Sebastien previously co-founded Playfish, a category-defining video games company that attracted over 55 million monthly players and which sold to Electronics Arts in 2009. Prior to Playfish, he helped launch Macrospace a mobile game pioneer that merged with Sorrent, Inc in 2006 to form Glu Mobile, which made its initial public offering in 2007.
"The most valuable technology companies of our generation are ones that collect massive and important data sets," said Ted Maidenberg, co-founder and partner at Social Capital. "Oceans cover over 70% of the earth's surface, but we know very little about them due to the historically prohibitive cost of research. At Social Capital, we're excited about the vast commercial applications of Saildrone-collected data as well as how these unprecedented insights into our oceans will help the world move beyond debate and into action when it comes to climate change."
Dipender Saluja, Managing Director of the Capricorn Investment Group, which has invested in companies like SpaceX, Planet Labs, QuantumScape and Tesla, said, "Saildrone is enabling an open systematic view of the earth's oceans and pioneering a new wave of applications providing insight and access to real-time data, at a price point orders of magnitude below that of traditional sources, at orders of magnitude higher cadence and accuracy. Saildrone is democratizing access to the oceans, which remain largely unexplored, and is poised to revolutionize the industry, much like SpaceX and Planet Labs have revolutionized the space industry. We are excited to be a part of this transformational company."