PARIS — With a recent funding round and growing demand for its radio-frequency geolocation capabilities, HawkEye 360’s chief executive says the company has reached an “inflection point” on the path towards profitability and potentially going public.
HawkEye 360 announced July 13 it raised $58 million in a Series D-1 round led by BlackRock. The company said then that the funding would support development of new satellites and analytics products.
The company has raised $368 million to date, said John Serafini, chief executive of HawkEye 360, in an interview during World Satellite Business Week here Sept. 13. That round may also be the last private funding the company needs to raise.
“Provided that we execute against our revenue forecasts, which are conservative and we think we can do, we won’t need to raise additional private capital,” he said. Profitability, he added, “is on the horizon for us,” but didn’t offer a specific timeline for achieving it.
In a presentation at an investor conference a year ago, Serafini said the company was considering going public though an initial public offering (IPO) of stock in two to three years. That is still the plan now, he said, although the timing will depend as much on market conditions as it will the state of the company.
“The market being open or closed has a lot to do with it,” he said of the timing of an IPO, which he said remains likely two to three years out. “Whether we can achieve the requisite milestones is the biggest issue,” such as achieving profitability and the right unit economics. “That’s what we can control and we’re rushing like heck to get to that spot.”
The new funding and the growth of the business have put HawkEye 360 into a good position, he argued. “I would say we’re at an inflection point,” he said, from the funding to plans to launch additional satellites and development of analytics tools that leverage machine learning and artificial intelligence. “All of that in the next 12 to 18 months has got us in a great position.”
Governments remain the largest customers for HawkEye 360, which Serafini said will likely be the case for the foreseeable future. That has included defense and intelligence applications as well as some civil and broader security applications, like tracking illegal fishing or deforestation.
“One of the tenets we set the company up with was to focus on where the money is. The money in remote sensing is, ultimately, in defense and intelligence,” he said. “If you can’t service those customers, you’re not going to exist as a company.”
That work has included work in Ukraine since Russia’s invasion more than a year and a half ago, tracking sources of GPS and other radio-frequency interference. Serafini declined to go into details about the company’s work there, but he said the conflict has highlighted the importance of both commercial remote sensing capabilities in general as well as the need to work closely with the users of those capabilities.
“Throwing remote sensing data over a fence probably doesn’t lead to success,” he said. “One of the areas of growth for HawkEye is understanding the tactical intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance requirements of our customers, and the networks and systems that they operate in, such that our data can flow into their existing systems as seamlessly as possible and produce another layer of valuable intelligence, not just drowning them in additional data.”
That data comes from 21 satellites currently in orbit. Six more are scheduled to launch later this year on a Rocket Lab Electron from New Zealand. The company’s long-term goal is to have 60 satellites, in 20 three-satellite clusters, which Serafini said the company expects to achieve by 2025 or 2026.
Those satellites, built both by the Space Flight Laboratory at the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies as well as HawkEye 360’s own facility in Northern Virginia, will be a mix of both its existing Block 2 design and new Block 3 design. The plans for Block 3 are “very fluid,” he said, and could feature two different designs, a smaller one to focus on specific signals and a larger one to do “very advanced” work.
HawkEye 360 also announced Sept. 12 it promoted Rob Rainhart, the company’s chief operating officer since 2019, to president.
“Rob and I have been partners together for eight years,” Serafini said. Rainhart handles internal company operations, responsibilities he will continue as president. “He keeps the company running on time, and so it felt like the right time to make the move to promote him to president.”