The Belgian engineer who will put Spire Global into stock market orbit

Belgian Jeroen Cappaert founded Spire Global to collect weather data via a network of microsatellites. It is now listed on the stock market via a Spac.

At the start of the last decade, Jeroen Cappaert moved to a NASA base in California for a few months. The “cubesats”, or minisatellites, we were already talking about at the time. 2012 is not that far away, but a decade is a century in this type of technology. “Research has been underway since the early 2000s,” Cappaert explained in an interview with Tijd last year. “Much of the technology we use was already there. It is partly the same electronics as that of smartphones. It just took a guy to say, ‘Come on, let’s do this. We’re going to market that and create a business model. ‘ We did it.”

The profile

2011: Master in engineering fromCatholic University of Louvain, cum laude

2012: Master in Space Studies from theInternational Space University in Strasbourg

2012: Researcher on cubesats and fluid mechanics at the Nasa

2012: He co-founded Spire Global for which he conceived the design of the mini-satellites.

2017: It becomes CTO of Spire Global.

2021: Initial Public Offering via a SPAC

You just had to think about it, sort of. Founded in 2012 by Cappaert and two partners, Spire Global now has more than 100 minisatellites collecting data in low Earth orbit. And the satellite and data management company is now taking a step towards the New York Stock Exchange.

However, it is not a question of a traditional IPO but of a Spac (Special Purpose Acquisition Company). Spire Global merges with Navsight Holdings, one of those empty shells that raise funds for future acquisitions. In the case of Navsight, listed on the New York Stock Exchange, the objective was to find a target in the technology for the military world or for the government.

Meteorological data

The demand for satellites for terrestrial applications is particularly booming. In particular for the diffusion of the Internet via satellites in low orbit as the Starlink of Elon Musk. For Jeroen Cappart, there is no question of building rockets or traveling in space. At Spire Global, the value is rather in the data.

Spire Global collects and processes data for a wide variety of industries. Through its satellites, it monitors, for example, the movements of ships and collects this information in a global database intended for ports and shipping companies.

30 under 30

In 2016, the Belgian then only twenty years old landed a place in Forbes 30 under 30, the list of thirty promising young entrepreneurs and scientists for the prestigious American business magazine.

But minisatellites also collect meteorological data. “The weather forecasts we collect are 30% more accurate. And we are helping the fight against illegal fishing.” During confinements, Spire was able to compensate for the absence of airplanes in flight, which also collect valuable weather data. The company took advantage of this situation to sign major contracts in Europe, the United Kingdom and the United States.

With its hundreds of minisatellites, Spire collects big data in a unique way and in a unique place. The company has built a data center at its European headquarters in Luxembourg, while the “cubesats” are manufactured in Glagow. “We don’t just collect data, we also need to process and deliver it“, says Cappaert.

The band technician

Jeroen Cappaert is the technician of the trio of founders, with Peter Platzer (CEO) and Joel Spark. It must be said that space is his playground. He obtained an engineering degree from the University of Louvain (KUL) – cum laude, excuse du peu -, completed by a thesis at the von Karman Institute and a complementary cycle at the University of the Space of Strasbourg. It has an office in Glasgow, where the company also assembles most of its satellites (90%).

Valued at 1.6 billion

In June 2012, the company had raised just over $ 100,000, via a first crowdfunding, to develop its first prototypes. Eight years later the company has already raised more than $ 175 million in capital to achieve a network of more than 100 minisatellites.

The merger with Navsight will provide $ 475 million. 245 million of this amount comes from a private operation led by American funds such as Tiger Global and BlackRock Advisors. The company is now worth $ 1.6 billion. According to US media, the stock market transaction must be completed by the summer, after which Spire Global will be listed under the symbol “SPIR” on Wall Street screens.

New wave capital

Spire Global manufactures most of its satellites in Glasgow, Scotland. But it is in Luxembourg that the company has established its head office. For tax reasons? “In a few years, Luxembourg has become the European capital of NewSpace, the new wave of commercial space,” says Jeroen Cappaert.

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