The San Francisco-based enterprise platform uses AI to analyse data collected from autonomous systems like UAV (unmanned aerial vehicles) and will use the funds for product and business development.
Swarup Mavanoor and Rahul Sankhe founded Sensehawk in 2016 based on their experience in the renewable energy sector. The San Francisco-based startup's platform enables owners, managers, and developers of solar assets to gain new insights about their plant to enable maximisation of returns. The startup also has operations in Mumbai and Bengaluru.
In a telephonic conversation with YourStory, Swarup explained, “Access to high-quality information from projects was a major issue across all infrastructure classes. We started tackling the information availability problem in late 2016 with drones as a potential solution. Recognising that industry and function-specific analysis functions were the key to generating market acceptance for drones, we started building highly specialised modules for specific functions.”
He added the renewable energy space in India was the most successful market for such a service. The startup today announced it had raised $2 million in Series A funding led by SAIF Partners.
Following the fund raise, Mayank Khanduja, Principal, SAIF Partners said,
“We are impressed at the upside that Sensehawk solution brings to the multi-billion-dollar solar industry, and will soon do the same for other industries. As the solar industry attracts more investment, we believe that Swarup, Rahul and their team will be at the forefront of building an intelligent analytics platform that allows asset owners to maximise asset performance, and we feel excited to work with them on this next phase of growth.”
Swarup says the biggest challenge for the business was to convince customers that automation could work. “Once you are over that, the next challenge is getting enough data to ensure our models are accurate. The final challenge is in ensuring that the software team has the required breadth of understanding to deliver the solution.”
Over time, the team saw the drone services business was a race to the bottom, and there were low entry barriers. This made them focus on understanding what the customers needed in addition to basic drone data. “The shift was always going to be hard as the mindset for drone services is very different from the one needed for software development. Thus, we started a second venture and decided to spend most of our time on it,” says Swarup.
With the current fund raise, the company plans to acquire talent and strengthen its presence in other geographies over the next 12-18 months. It is also looking at expansion of business outside India, US and Australia.
The Sensehawk platform helps monitor infrastructure projects using images derived from drones. It uses AI and ML to assess the progress so as to yield maximum returns from the projects.
The platform has three different components – the ‘Link’ app controls drone flight to enable data collection in a pre-programmed pattern, the Artificial Intelligence Engine (HawkAI) sees and identifies patterns from the collected data and the web-based interface, Unity, makes it easy for enterprises to seamlessly collect, analyse and generate insights for effective decision-making.
“The key learning is that working closely with customers on live projects and applications is critical to developing relevant solutions that matter for enterprise customers. There are no cookie cutter solutions,” says Rahul.
SenseHawk has been deployed at solar plants in different stages of the life cycle, with capacity of 11 gigawatts.
“The expanded capital base will allow Sensehawk to focus on business development, expand geographically and diversify the depth of solutions offered to enterprises,” says Swarup.
SenseHawk’s aim is to digitise infrastructure asset industries with the creation of a scalable AI-driven platform that combines sensor data and expert knowledge to deliver insights to users.
“With large investments into new infrastructure and strong downward pressure on investment returns, combating process inefficiency with new sensing technologies and intelligent software has become a critical requirement. We are addressing exactly this requirement with an initial focus on the solar industry,” explains Swarup.
The use of commercial drones is high. MIT-incubated startup Airworks builds aerial data analytics service for construction firms. According to McKinsey & Co, the space is believed to contribute between $31 billion to $46 billion to the US GDP alone. In India, however, it is still a niche space.
Mayank believes that while vertical SaaS platforms like Sensehawk look like a niche space, the amount of capital that has been pumped in specific sectors like the solar industry is high. “As the market attracts more capital, there is need for a tech platform to manage the assets, nothing exists at the moment. It is like an open-play,” he says.
The 20-member strong Sensehawk claims to have more than 20 corporate clients. The platform provides end-to-end aerial data solutions for the infrastructure and mining industry as well. “Our future plan is simple. We call it 3G - grow revenue, grow value, and grow market share,” says Rahul.