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The URSA team examines satellite imagery at Rev: Ithaca Startup Works.

Satellite startup Ursa raises $5.7M, promotes female leaders

Although geospatial intelligence startup Ursa Space Systems examines images taken from space, its two most recent accomplishments are based on something much closer to home: its people. The Rev: Ithaca Startup Works member raised $5.7 million in new venture funding in a round led by RRE Ventures, with participation from Paladin Capital and S&P Global. The company attributes much of its success to its team of professional staff.

Ursa, founded by Cornell alumni Adam Maher ’06, M.Eng. ’07, and Derek Edinger ’94, M.Eng. ’95, and Julie Baker, uses radar satellites, analytics and machine learning to generate insights into things like crude oil storage in non-OPEC countries and areas of flooding caused by hurricanes. Funders were impressed by a high level of interest from customers in Ursa’s products, and the new funding will accelerate Ursa’s ability to meet customer demand.

Maher said investors “were excited about the level of talent that we’ve built on the team and really wanted us to keep that momentum going.”

He describes Ursa’s growth since its founding in 2014 as “holistic.” The company has concentrated on recruiting experts in radar engineering and large cloud computing, along marketing and networking professionals. Maher summarizes Ursa’s talent procurement as investing in “everything from engineers to artists.”

This approach has also helped Ursa achieve gender parity among its leadership team and near parity across the company as a whole. In its coverage of Ursa’s accomplishment, Forbes Magazine noted it is “the rare technology company that has near gender parity.”

By hiring women early in the company’s existence, Ursa built a work culture that was welcoming and inclusive. In particular, Maher notes that gender parity has brought more cohesion to Ursa and enhanced its dialogue regarding future directions.

Ursa will continue to concentrate on recruiting talent and growing aspects of its culture that are attractive to female and male employees alike. Ursa’s emphasis on people likely stems from its beginnings at Rev, where Maher cites mentorship and community as two of the greatest influences on building the company. He still seeks the advice of his mentors from Rev.

Casey Verderosa is a freelancer at the Center for Regional Economic Advancement.

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Lindsey Hadlock