Fredericton geomapping startup 3D Planeta has raised just over $1 million in equity investment in a two-stage seed round, with a third stage planned to bring the total to $1.25 million in the coming months.

The company is building software for viewing three-dimensional maps based on satellite imagery, which it sells to organizations that require precise knowledge of an area’s terrain. And last year, it added a second product offering: a marketplace where customers can buy the satellite image data needed to run the software.

The $1 million was raised in two stages so that the first round could close in time for a handful of the investors -- angel investors from New Brunswick -- to qualify for the Small Business Investor Tax Credit in 2020. The second stage included institutional investors, such as Halifax’s Concrete Ventures and the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation.

“What we had initially done is we tried to raise the full one-and-a-quarter million in a single round,” said CEO Norm Couturier in an interview. “And just due to the elapsed time that was taking place -- a contributing factor was COVID -- we had some investors that were interested in putting their capital in early.

“So, we decided to phase the round, so that we could accept capital from these investors in order to get their tax credits in the 2020 calendar year, yet keep the round open and continue to work with the investors at the table.”

Much of that money will go towards hiring eight to 10 experienced technical staff, to complement 3D Planeta’s 17 existing employees.

The raise comes as Couturier’s team works on several pilot projects with companies that build wind and solar farms, as well as with mining companies looking to reclaim or decommission mine sites.

The geomapping data displayed by 3D Planeta’s SaaS product can be viewed on a variety of devices, including smartphones, making it well-suited for use in hard-to-access regions.

“There's a lot of interest for (renewable energy) explorers to say, ‘Okay, where do I go next?... I need visibility. Take me there, or bring “there” to me, so that we can do our assessments,” said Couturier.

So far, the company’s customers are located mostly in Canada and the United States, but Couturier said he plans to expand into other regions by focusing on signing a relatively small number of large-scale clients, with an eye towards highly visible market validation.

The new satellite image marketplace, meanwhile, will allow users to order data from satellite operators, with 3D Planeta acting as a middleman for the sake of convenience and easy compatibility with its SaaS platform.

So far, the marketplace is slated to include images from 10 satellite companies, with Couturier foreseeing a roster of “several dozen” next year.

“We discovered that there's a challenge in those providers getting their data to the customers in an automated, reliable and easy format, with commoditized pricing,” said Couturier. “It’s very much an emerging landscape in that area, which we (previously) thought was far more developed than it is. So, it presented an opportunity for us that we didn't think was an opportunity till we got there.”