Welcome to our X-Europe startup interview series. We have virtually sat down with a number of our founders from past cohorts to hear all about their solutions, vision for the future, and what made them tick during our X Europe programme. So whether you are a deep tech founder looking for startup support, an eagle-eyed investor, or simply interested in the possibilities that technology can bring to society, then we welcome you to take a read. Please meet Aistech Space, a startup that generates affordable, recurrent, high-resolution thermal imagery of the planet to provide a new perspective of Earth’s changing resources.
Can you briefly explain what your solution is all about? What’s unique about it?
We are a space technology company that plans to launch one of the first commercial constellations capable of taking high-resolution thermal images on demand. The first of these satellites, called Guardian, is scheduled to launch in Q4 of 2021. Our imagery will provide critical information to organizations around the world for mitigating large-scale environmental threats, such as forest fires, water waste, and the lack of critical minerals for renewable energy.
What led you to start or join your company? What is the key motivation and mission behind the startup?
Working in New Space has been a dream of mine for a long time. I touched on the industry as part of my work at In-Q-Tel, where I helped bring cutting-edge startup technology to the U.S. Government. But joining Aistech Space is the first time that I have been able to put my skills directly to use in a focus area that not only has interested me since childhood but also is able to make a huge impact on helping organizations mitigate the effects of climate change and improve sustainability. I think this is the challenge of our time, and I am honored to be playing a small part in it.
What’s the biggest milestone your startup has achieved so far, and what has surprised you most on this journey?
Our biggest milestone achieved so far has been the completion of our first high-resolution thermal imager for small satellites, which is set to launch at the end of this year. This satellite will provide the highest resolution thermal space imagery available on the market, and be able to monitor the Earth's temperature and provide critical information on demand to help mitigate the effects of climate change. Its launch will be New Space history.
A close second to that is that we launched our first two small satellites in 2018 and 2019. These carry IoT payloads and are still in operation today. With their launch, Aistech Space became the first Spanish company to launch a small satellite constellation, and the first European company (and third worldwide) to deploy a space-based air traffic monitoring system.
What has surprised me the most is how accessible New Space has become. A small company of fewer than 20 people can develop cutting-edge technology and put it in space in the span of a few years. This is a big leap from where we were in the space industry 20 years ago when I was just starting my own career. The commercialization of space has opened the way for new, innovative solutions and will make space data available to more users across more sectors.
How has X-Europe helped you during the past few months?
X-Europe has already provided valuable insights for my company. They provided a clear, concise vision of how to think about pitching, including a helpful list of space-focused investors, some of which we had not previously considered. Their Growth Tribe experimentation workshop, centered on marketing, also provided a wealth of new tools and strategies for tackling the challenge of clearly communicating the value proposition of our company. I have already started to integrate some of them into our marketing efforts and am looking forward to the results.
What are your goals over the next 3, 6, and 12 months?
In 3 months: We will launch our first Guardian satellite, which is capable of taking high-resolution thermal infrared imagery on demand and making New Space history. We will also close a successful crowdfunding round for the purpose of deploying a fire risk prediction system using our own thermal infrared satellite imagery to help organizations involved in wildfire management improve their readiness and operations. By having a more accurate, granular, and timely view of where potential wildfires can emerge, they will be able to deploy preventative measures and responder resources more effectively and efficiently.
In 6 months: We will be working with dozens of public institutions, international organizations, and companies to validate the thermal infrared images generated by our first Guardian satellite, and convert those relationships into long-term commercial deals. We will also complete the design of our next generation Guardian and prepare it for launch.
In 12 months: We will initiate a constellation of thermal-enabled satellites with the launch of our second-generation Guardian. We will also secure funding to launch the remainder of our planned 20-satellite constellation over the next 3 years and dominate the thermal infrared space imagery market.
What advice would you give to an entrepreneur trying to pave his/her way in the Space landscape?
The first piece of advice I would give is to focus. Space technology is complex and expensive, so you will be better off if you focus on developing one innovation and becoming the best at that one thing, rather than trying to serve the entire value chain and spreading yourself and your team too thin.
My second piece of advice is to always remember why you are doing it. This is two-fold in the sense that you have to always have the pain point and your target market in mind, as well as the reason that you want to be in this industry and are inspired to solve that problem. Don't lose the connection to your strategic vision.
What one piece of advice would you give your 21-year-old self?
When in doubt, act. As many people do, I have a tendency to want to overthink things and spend too much time trying to get them just right. Working in the fast-paced tech industry where you can miss an opportunity if you blink, I have learned that you have to lean toward taking action whenever possible. It is better to move forward with a minimum viable product and iterate using customer feedback instead of waiting until you think it's ready. This goes for PowerPoint presentations and job interviews as well as software and hardware. It's a hard thing to do, and you have to be open to learning from criticism and failures, but it is the best way to find what works and avoid missed opportunities.
What’s unique about the X-Europe programme?
X-Europe is a unique opportunity to receive mentorship and matching services from an extremely well-connected community across all of Europe. Further, each cohort is focused on a specific industry, so most of the events and activities in my specific program are tailored for space entrepreneurs, which is fantastic.