- Singapore-based space technology startup Transcelestial is building a wireless laser communication technology to drive connectivity and deliver high-speed internet globally in the next couple of decades to over 4 billion people who do not have internet access currently.
- Seed investment led by Wavemaker Partners (SG) in partnership with SEEDS Capital (SG), joined by AirTree Ventures (AUS), 500 Startups (SG), Michael Seibel (US), Jonathan Schiff (SG), Charlie Songhurst (US), Josh Manchester (US) and other investors.
- Working with major telecom players globally, including an early public demonstration with SK Telecom (South Korea) and Telecom Infra Project.
What connects the use of lasers in Bell Labs in the 1960s and the $10 billion Breakthrough Starshot initiative to send a satellite to Alpha Centauri by 2036? The attempt to use lasers for wireless ultra high bandwidth communication. Widespread commercial usage of such technology has been difficult since the 60s due to factors such as cost of technology, weather reliability and even need for such high data speeds. Emerging connectivity needs globally demand a breakthrough in this technology
Transcelestial Technologies (Transcelestial), a Singapore-based startup backed by Entrepreneur First, SGInnovate, and Sparklabs Global Ventures, has raised S$2.5 million (US$1.8 million) in seed funding to develop this technology in stealth. Their seed funding, raised back in December 2017, was led by Wavemaker Partners in partnership with SEEDS Capital (investment arm of Enterprise Singapore), and joined by Airtree Ventures, 500 Startups, Michael Seibel (CEO of Y-Combinator), Jonathan Schiff (Venture Partner, WI Harper Group), Charlie Songhurst (Microsoft’s former Head of Corporate Strategy), Josh Manchester (Champion Hill Labs), and other prominent angels.
Transcelestial was founded by Rohit Jha and Dr. Mohammad Danesh in 2016. The company is working to build the world’s first Space Laser Network that aims to use wireless laser communication and nano-satellites to deliver commercial high speed internet anywhere on Earth.
“We started Transcelestial because we saw an exciting future for humanity in the next 100 years but no action plan to build a scalable, underlying infrastructure needed, either on the planet or in deep space, to support that. The average cost of transcontinental high bandwidth undersea cables ranges from over hundreds of millions to billions of dollars in capital expenditure, and tens of million dollars in annual maintenance. Existing wireless technologies have reached high levels of spectrum congestion leading to a limit on how much connectivity they can support. Transcelestial’s radical new approach is needed to overcome these issues and ensure global connectivity in the next couple of decades,” said Rohit Jha, CEO and co-founder of Transcelestial.
“We are pleased to have had the opportunity to lead Transcelestial’s investment round as it aims to bring connectivity to emerging markets, deliver high-speed internet to cities, and eventually, bring their technology to space,” said Paul Santos, Managing Partner of Wavemaker Partners.
“Transcelestial aims to bring global connectivity to the next level through their innovative technology in wireless laser communications. We are happy to partner with Wavemaker in this investment and aim to catalyse more of such strategic investments into deep technologies in the near future,” said Geoffrey Yeo, General Manager of SEEDS Capital.
In February 2017, USAID reported that over 4 billion people globally has no access to the internet. Bringing them online will be a costly undertaking. 95 percent of the world’s internet need is served by undersea cable infrastructure developed in the 1990s and 2000s. Meanwhile, according to Data Age 2025, a study by IDC and Seagate, in the next 10 years the amount of data created and consumed is expected to grow more than ten times, mostly from machine-to-machine communication such as IoT, connected vehicles, and in-game AI.
Transcelestial has been using it’s seed capital to turn its small office in Chinatown into a laser communication lab, employing some of the top engineers and scientists from multi-disciplinary fields. Funding will also drive research and development efforts into wireless laser communications for both terrestrial and space. Currently, Transcelestial is testing an on-ground version of their prototype wireless laser communication technology to provide state-of-the-art, fiber-like ultra-high bandwidth wireless backhaul to telecom and enterprise partners, both within Singapore and overseas.
One of the first public demonstrations of Transcelestial’s technology was a joint project with SK Telecom in South Korea and the Telecom Infra Project’s (TIP) Ecosystem Acceleration Center (TEAC) Initiative. Transcelestial’s wireless fibre optics technology was used to upgrade the backbone internet connectivity of a major public library near Seoul (South Korea), improving bandwidth by 20 times its existing speed.
“We at SK Telecom are closely working with Transcelestial to explore further inclusion of their technology in our wider commercial network across South Korea”, said JW Kim, Head of Open Collaboration Development, SK Telecom.
“TIP launched the TEAC program to foster collaboration between startups and players in the telecom industry. Transcelestial is a great example of how the TEAC model can work to accelerate great ideas by connecting bright entrepreneurs with innovative investors and operators,” said June Shin McCarthy, Manager of the TEAC Program.
At TIP Summit 2018, to be held in London this October, Transcelestial will share further details on R&D and commercial progress for both terrestrial and space.
Transcelestial is developing a laser communication solution to replace existing wireless communication technology. The aim is to develop a constellation of nano satellites which uses lasers to transfer & relay data for ground, satellite and deep space applications. This will be the fastest (up to 100 Gbps), long-distance, point-to-point wireless communication network possible.
Satellite communication is often hailed as a potential saviour for global wireless connectivity, but there are significant barriers. In order to meet the commercial cost per bit of terrestrial fibre networks, the cost of building and launching satellites need to decrease while their ability to support high bandwidths per downlink increases. On an average, current small satellites can deliver only up to 50-100 Mbps and the spectrum costs of such satellites is also going up owning to the X-band and K-band spectrums becoming increasingly congested. The next generation of technology needs the bandwidth of fibre optics and the flexibility of radio waves.
This is where Transcelestial wireless laser communication technology. This technology comes with zero spectrum costs and rapid deployment timelines in a small size, weight and power package. In the next three years, Transcelestial plans to develop a constellation of nano satellites for ground, satellite, and deep space applications.
“Transcelestial is building wireless laser communication technology with a view delivering high-speed internet globally via nano-satellites. If they pull it off, this will be transformative for the more than 4 billion people still without internet access. We met the team very early on in their journey and were attracted by the combination of technical smarts and commercial interest from SK Telecom and others. We’re delighted to be backing Rohit, Danesh and the team.” – John Henderson, Partner, Airtree Ventures
“Transcelestial has an audacious ambition – to satisfy humanity’s insatiable hunger and need for connectivity and information both on earth and in space. Rohit and Danesh have achieved a tremendous milestone by successfully piloting their technology with SK Telecom and Telecom Infra Project and delivering exponentially faster data and internet speeds across long distances. We’re proud to be a part of that journey.” – Vishal Harnal, General Partner, 500 Startups
Wavemaker Partners is Southeast Asia’s leading early-stage venture capital firm investing in enterprise and deep technology companies. It has been actively investing in the region since 2012, with more than 80 companies in its portfolio. Wavemaker was founded in Los Angeles in 2003 and is the regional partner for the Draper Venture Network (DVN), the world’s leading VC collective of 10 firms across 5 continents.
For more information, visit http://wavemaker.vc/
Enterprise Singapore, formerly International Enterprise Singapore and SPRING Singapore, is the government agency championing enterprise development. We work with committed companies to build capabilities, innovate and internationalize.
We also support the growth of Singapore as a hub for global trading and startups. As the national standards and accreditation body, we continue to build trust in Singapore’s products and services through quality and standards.
As the investment arm of Enterprise Singapore, SEEDS Capital catalyses smart investments into innovative Singapore-based startups with strong intellectual content and global market potential. We co-invest with independent investors in innovative startups. We help our startups commercialize and expand globally through leveraging on the expertise and strategic networks of our co-investment partners in areas such as technology translation, commercialization and market expansion. Through co-investments, SEEDS Capital aims to catalyze investments into nascent and strategic sectors. These include Advanced Manufacturing & Engineering, Health & Biomedical Sciences, Urban Sustainability & Solutions, and Services & Digital Economy.
For more information, visit https://www.enterprisesg.gov.sg/
AirTree Ventures is an early and growth stage venture firm backing world-class entrepreneurs. As one of the largest venture capital funds in Australia, AirTree loves to partner early with entrepreneurs who are using technology to solve genuine problems and reshape traditional industries, with a particular interest in sectors such as FinTech, AI, HealthTech, deep tech, and SaaS. Over the past two decades, the team has backed over 45 companies including market leaders such as Canva, Prospa, 90 Seconds, Paxata and Hyper Anna. AirTree is a business made up of entrepreneurs who have started companies and run large global businesses, and is the only Australian venture firm with a globally top decile track record.
For more information, visit https://airtree.vc/
500 Startups Durians Fund
500 Startups is a venture capital firm on a mission to discover and back the world’s most talented entrepreneurs, help them create successful companies at scale, and build thriving global ecosystems. We are one of the most active seed stage venture capital firms in the world. Since our inception in Silicon Valley, 500 Startups has invested in over 2,000 companies via our 4 global funds and 14 microfunds dedicated to either specific geographic markets or verticals. Our 100+ team members are located in multiple locations worldwide, with 500 Startups’ global portfolio of investments spanning over 60 countries. In Southeast Asia, our 500 Durians Funds and team bridge talented entrepreneurs and the opportunities they are pursuing with access to connected capital and expertise. To date, we have invested in and support over 160 companies and have built powerful communities of founders across Southeast Asia.
For more information, visit https://durians.500.co/
Entrepreneur First has pioneered a new model for company creation. We bring extraordinary individuals together to meet co-founders, create companies, and get funding. We have helped 1000+ founders build 150+ companies, with a combined valuation of almost $1.5 billion. EF is backed by some of Silicon Valley’s best investors, including Reid Hoffman (founder of LinkedIn), and Deep Mind founders Demis Hassabis and Mustafa Suleyman.
For more information, visit https://www.joinef.com/
At SGInnovate, we believe that Singapore has all the resources and capabilities needed to tackle ‘hard problems’ that matter to people around the world. As part of our Deep Tech Nexus Strategy, we are focused on adding tangible value to the Singapore deep tech startup ecosystem in two key areas – development of Human Capital and deployment of Investment Capital. With the support of our partners and co-investors, we back deeply technical founders through equity-based investments, access to talent, and support in building customer traction. Our efforts are prioritised around transformational technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain and MedTech, which represent impactful and scalable answers to global challenges. SGInnovate is a private-limited company wholly owned by the Singapore Government. For more information, please visit www.sginnovate.com
For more information, visit https://www.sginnovate.com/
SparkLabs Global Ventures
SparkLabs Global Ventures is a new type of seed-stage fund. We believe business is now truly global. Exceptional entrepreneurs, that are building strong, category defining companies at highly advantageous valuations – can be found anywhere. We are a team highly experienced in finding such talent and helping our entrepreneurs to develop, grow, network, and scale into other markets throughout the world. Our investment thesis: The Future is Data. We are looking to invest in companies that: are generating valuable data around usage patterns, customer behavior, company information; have innovative & disruptive business models built around strong products; have high engagement with their customer base (consumer or enterprise); have a highly talented, driven team that can clearly articulate their vision and do whatever it takes to succeed. Our Approach: Fast, Global Connected. Business is now truly global, but most investors are not. Exceptional entrepreneurs, that are building strong, category defining companies at highly advantageous valuations – can be found anywhere. This is the future of investing: truly global, virtual, fast and highly networked.
For more information, visit http://www.sparklabsglobal.com/
ABOUT THE PILOT PARTNERS
Telecom Infra Project (TIP)
The Telecom Infra Project (TIP) is a collaborative telecom community. Launched in February 2016, TIP was started with the goal of accelerating the pace of innovation in the telecom industry. We believe that accelerating innovation coupled with new business approaches and cost efficiencies will help the industry build the networks of the future and create business opportunities for new and existing companies, alike.
Established in 1984, SK Telecom is the largest mobile operator in Korea by both revenue and number of subscribers. As of December 2017, the company holds around 50 percent of the market, with 30.2 million mobile subscribers including 22.87 million LTE subscribers. It has reached KRW 17.520 trillion in revenue in 2017. SK Telecom has led the advancement of mobile technologies ranging from 2G to 4G, and is currently setting important milestones in its journey to 5G. The company is not only leading innovation in the field of mobile network, but also providing IoT, media, home and platform services. SK Telecom is determined to play a significant role in the Fourth Industrial Revolution by achieving innovations and promoting shared growth with other players in the industry.
For more information, please contact [email protected] or www.globalskt.com.
Yong-jae Lee, SK Telecom Co. Ltd., (822) 6100-3838, (8210) 3129 6880, [email protected]