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Ann Mather, Board Member of Google and Netflix, Joins Board of Satellite Startup Planet Labs

The space race starts to get down to business.

Planet Labs

For its first three years, Planet Labs plugged away at the Herculean task of launching several dozen satellites into space to blanket the globe and take high-resolution photographs. Next up: Turning that into a viable business.

To do so, the well-funded startup is bringing on Ann Mather, a Silicon Valley veteran and staple of several boardrooms, including Google and Netflix.

As it moves into an operational phase, Planet Labs is angling itself as a data provider. It plans to sell its images to clients in government, agriculture and mapping industries. Mather brings finance chops to its board as well as “cognitive diversity,” explained CEO Will Marshall. She is the first independent board member, joining three of the company’s co-founders and three investors — Yuri Milner, Steve Jurvetson of Draper Fisher Jurvetson and Zachary Bogue of Data Collective.

Ann Mather
Ann Mather

“We’ve got a lot of space geeks on the board,” Marshall said. “What we wanted was someone with more platform experience. And she also brings this great experience on the finance side.”

Through her career, Mather has served in several accounting and finance roles, including chief financial officer for Pixar. She declined, through a spokesperson, to be interviewed, but shared this statement: “The breadth and scope of Planet’s mission is staggering, and the humanitarian and commercial impact of daily, global imaging is ground-breaking.”

Commercially, Planet Labs competes with DigitalGlobe and Airbus, which ship images captured from sizable, pricey spacecraft. It also competes with Google (where Mather has been a director since 2005): Last year, the search company acquired Skybox Imaging for $500 million. Skybox’s two existing satellites are bigger, on par with a mini-fridge versus Planet Lab’s shoebox-size models. And industry sources say it is more focused on weather analysis and Internet access inside Google than commercial applications. Comparing the two companies, Marshall drew an analogy to trucks and cars — similar industry, but different markets.

His goal is to have upward of 100 satellites in orbit in order to capture comprehensive, constant images worldwide. Right now, the company has 38 satellites in operation and recently sent another 14 skyward. Not all survive. Since forming, the company has launched 101 satellites.

It has had no problem raising cash, however. Planet Labs has netted over $183 million in five rounds, including a $95 million round in January. Marshall said the company currently has commitments from customers that exceed that amount.

Here’s a taste of the company’s images, a view of San Francisco snapped on Saturday.

This article originally appeared on

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