Terradepth: Mapping the Ocean’s Mysteries

Developing submersible vehicle systems that capture underwater data

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2 min

With 360 million square kilometers making up more than 70% of our planet’s surface, it is no wonder we have yet to discover everything in the sea. Still, there is a growing need among commercial and government customers for cost-effective, detailed capture and use of oceanographic data. Unfortunately, because data collection methods are too human-centric and cost-prohibitive to scale, only 5% of our oceans are mapped in high resolution.

Co-founded in 2018 by retired Navy SEAL teammates Jud Kauffman and Joe Wolfel, Alumni Ventures portfolio company Terradepth is creating a Google Earth for the oceans to meet rising demands for accurate, cost-efficient deep-sea data. Unlike other expensive methods, Terradepth cuts costs by removing humans and crewed ships from its process. Instead, it combines powerful AI, machine learning, and cutting-edge software engineering with autonomous subs that can document 98% of our oceans in high resolution.

Into the Depths

Terradepth is building a new generation of deep-ocean autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) that can detect, calculate, tag, and course-correct independently of humans. These AUVs operate as “swim pairs,” meaning they alternate places in the water column between surface and depth each day. This patented role-switching technology allows the surface submarine to do three things that large crewed surface ships traditionally do: 

  • Provide geolocation support to the submerged submarine
  • Recharge batteries
  • Process and transfer ocean data

There is a growing demand for deep ocean data and commercial surveying in core sectors such as energy, deep-sea telecom cables, offshore asset insurers, defense, and climate research. Terradepth’s data-as-a-service model allows customers within these sectors to access data from the seafloor to the surface — such as high-resolution imaging, 3D topographic mapping, and water column biological and environmental DNA. 

Disruptive Solution Addressing a Massive Opportunity

Terradepth is aiming to revolutionize the ocean industry, much like SpaceX and Planet Labs have approached the space industry. The company anticipates significant market expansion as it lowers the cost of ocean data for commercial and government customers. Key areas of potential include:

  • Opportunity to disrupt the existing $24 billion annual ocean observational market, as well as $60 billion geospatial analytics market 
  • The expense of the legacy solution (surveying with humans and crewed ships) has left 95% of the ocean unmapped
  • 10:1 cost advantage over incumbents thanks to the AI-driven software engineering of Terradepth’s autonomous underwater vehicles

Investing Alongside Established VCs

Terradepth raised an $8 million Seed round from global data storage leader Seagate Technologies in December 2019 and most recently completed a $25 million Series A. The co-leads of this round include Nimble Ventures,  a multi-stage investor with numerous notable exits (DocuSign $23.3B, Palantir $26B, Coupang $32.8B); and Giant Ventures, a new multi-stage fund that invests in information system sectors.

Congress Avenue Ventures (for the University of Texas community) led Alumni Ventures’ investment in Terradepth’s Series A alongside sibling funds Green D Ventures (for the Dartmouth community), Nassau Street Ventures (for the Princeton community), and Ring Ventures (for the Texas A&M community). Part of AV’s allocation was also raised via Syndication. 

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Contact [email protected] for additional information. To see additional risk factors and investment considerations, visit av-funds.com/disclosures.