Democratization and commercialization of data go hand-in-hand: Andy Wild of Planet

Democratization and commercialization of data go hand-in-hand: Andy Wild of Planet


Planet has created programs to democratize data and generated leads and demand for the commercial sector, Andy Wild, Chief Revenue Officer of Planet, tells us in an exclusive interview. With its Mission 1 complete – that is covering the Earth 24×7 – the company is now moving into creating actionable insights for its customers.  

Can you throw some light on Planet’s strategy and plans for the near future?

We have been a putting a lot of satellites in the space and have been fully focused on that.  We started the year 2017 with the launch of 88 satellites on ISRO’s PSLV, and then we closed on to Terra Bella. We will be dealing with more satellites in the space that are high-risk constellation.

A lot of our time has also been focused around strategies of taking the data and moving it into insights. We are looking at how we can solve business problems, what verticals it applies too and how we can get data into pixels and turn them into real outcomes so that our customers can solve their problems and create value for them. We are putting a lot of energy in new technologies — Cloud, Analytics, Artificial Intelligence and Big Data. We are moving very fast and are excited about it.

With so many satellites in space – not just of Planet — do you think we have a deluge of data now which we do not know how to make sense of?

We have a perspective at Planet that the insights are probably more valuable than the data in the long run. But clearly having the right set of data, the right frequency of data and right refresh of data is important. A number of clients tell us that we are overwhelming them with data, but that is because they do not have the right techniques, capabilities or processes to make sense of the data. So, I do not think we have a deluge of data — what we have is the lack of choice to make sense of that data. I think Planet is looking at moving up the value chain to see how we can make sense of the data and turn it into insights which leads into business outcomes like reduced risks, accelerate cycle time and save cost of new business models. The company’s top priority is to make a set of tools — what we call platform — to make sense of the data and turn it into business value.

Planet recently completed its Mission 1. Where do you see the demand for 24×7 Earth coverage coming in and which sectors are looking optimistic for it?

Mission 1 was to get images all of Earth’s landmass every day and it is interesting that other new business models are being created from that. It is not about who needs it or who does not need it. Therefore, it is not about the data or daily updates of it, but it is about the frequency of the change and how do we extract that change and what that change means to insights.

Our largest market is agriculture — they do not necessarily need the information about daily change, but certainly in a week or month. During growing season, when we start to show the level of change we can detect and the frequency of insights we can create, creates a whole new set of conversation. I do not think daily data is that important like it used to be. It is great we have it but what matters is detecting the change and creating actionable insights for businesses. For instance, when a disaster happens, this daily data can be valuable in finding out what led to it, what happened during the disaster and what happened after the disaster. Defense and Intelligence is a big market for daily data. Even hedge funds want to see things frequently. Our competitive advantage over others will be to detect the change in the data and make that insight actionable and consumable by our customers.

Are you looking at packaging data as a service?

Yes, our new mission is to package the data and make it seamless and transparent. We package the data with set of analytics and set of platform services that people can use. Over the last 18 months, Planet has been selling data as a service to customers in Defense and Intelligence, and Agriculture fields. We continue to see growth in these segments.

Overall, we see demand across three segments – firstly, people who know what to do with the data already; secondly, demand for information feeds from new customers who do not know how to consume the data and just need information feed on daily, weekly or monthly basis; and lastly, customers who want us to build unique applications to consume the data.

In the years to come, we see majority of the demand coming from applications and analytics as a service more than the data as a service.

Planet gives out data for free for a lot of CSR purpose. Do you think democratization and commercialization of data can go hand-in-hand?

There are number of programs where we share our data but not always for free. There is a lot of misnomer on how much data we share for free and not. We are proactive in disaster response, but there are time limits to that data. Democratization of data and making it accessible is in Planet’s DNA. It is about moving up the value change. In the end, if you believe that analytics is a service to offer, then data becomes less important. We have been growing pretty fast and are proud of what we do.

So to answer your question, yes, democratization and commercialization of data can go hand-in-hand. Planet is a perfect example to that. We have been able to do both successfully. We have created programs to democratize data and generated leads and demand for the commercial sector.

Other than the traditional markets you cater to, which are the new markets that you are scouting?

Non-traditional markets like insurance, energy, oil and gas, and investment banking are proactively coming to us to understand how they can get actionable insights from our data. These are potential markets for us. Today, the data market is around $3-4 billion and we foresee the data plus analytics market to be around $ 10-12 billion with new customers. Not just enterprise market but also small and medium business, perhaps even consumer market, have been on our horizon.

What are your expansion plans?

Planet was started off from a garage by three people. Three years since inception we have a strength of around 500 people now. Our pace of innovation has also grown at the same rate as the company. We are headquartered in San Francisco, but have multiple hubs — one in Berlin and couple of more in the US. We are looking at expanding in potential markets, both in terms of hubs and regional offices. Markets like Asia, Asia-Pacific and South East Asian markets are great expanding markets for Planet – China and Japan in partcular. We will continue to expand in Latin America. We think Europe is about to take a tipping point and really move up the value chain around geospatial analytics. EU has been very much into data and spacecraft centric culture, and we are seeing that changing rapidly. Planet will be expanding fast but manage that by doing it at the right way and at the right time.