One of the inventors of Google Earth is joining the advisory board of Seraphim Space, Fortune has learned, adding considerable heft to the world’s first space-focused venture fund.
Michael Jones was a cofounder of Keyhole Corporation, the creator of EarthViewer 3D, on which Google Earth is based. Google (GOOGL) acquired Keyhole in 2004, and Jones went on to hold a number of senior leadership roles at the Silicon Valley giant, including serving as chief technology advocate from 2008 until April 2015.
Seraphim Space is a $110 million fund that will be launched by London-based Seraphim Capital before the end of May. It aims to capitalize on the rise of ‘New Space’: with satellites cheaper than ever before to build and launch, a wide range of new companies are developing in the space sector, making equipment for space or exploiting earth observation data for a number of applications, from agriculture to insurance to mapping.
“Michael has unparalleled experience of developing products that leverage earth observation data, and scaling them to billions of users,” said Mark Boggett, a partner at Seraphim Capital, the London-based investment firm behind the space fund. “The fusion of such satellite data for terrestrial applications is a key area of investment focus for our new space-tech fund, and so Michael’s expertise will be a tremendous asset to our fund and the entrepreneurs we back.”
Jones is now the chief executive officer of Wearality, a developer of 3D glasses for smartphones. He has also been a board member of the Open Geospatial Consortium and served on the U.S. National Geospatial Advisory Committee.
He said that the needs of society were challenging the space sector to harness data from satellite imaging and sensing to create “hitherto unimagined applications back on Earth”. The ripple effect of this has been seen in the disruption of many different areas, he said, from Google Earth onwards.
“I believe we will see the emergence of a new generation of category-defining businesses built from the proliferation of these new forms of low cost satellite data, and look forward to supporting the Seraphim team in their efforts to invest in and help build the best of these companies into global successes.”
Seraphim Space aims to invest in primarily UK-based companies, as well as European firms that contribute to the British industry. It is seeking opportunities in companies that make hardware and software specifically for space applications, as well as firms that work in other areas, like artificial intelligence, whose technology could be used for space-related purposes.
“We see significant opportunity to employ that technology in activities within the space sector, not currently being used,” Mr Boggett said in a previous interview with Fortune. “We believe there is a significant number of really exciting businesses out there that don’t currently realize that they—from our perspective—are space-related technologies.”
The fund is also keen to identify technologies developed for space that could have terrestrial applications. There are a number of earlier innovations in this direction, such as light-emitting diodes and solar cells.
The Space Fund is backed by capital from seven major European players in the space industry, including Airbus and Thales Alenia. It has also received support from the UK Space Agency and the European Space Agency (ESA), with the latter also holding a seat on the advisory board.
Update: An earlier version of this story called Seraphim Space a hedge fund in the headline. It is a venture capital fund.