Checklist For Next-Gen Entrepreneurs In Space-tech
Here are a few things that next-gen space tech entrepreneurs will need to keep in mind to forge new futures ahead
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If the first two decades of the 2000s witnessed the IT boom, the coming few decades are going to see a deep-tech boom in the country—producing aspiring entrepreneurs and bright minds solving the world's most challenging problems.
The perception towards entrepreneurship has seen a huge shift, especially in India, with some of the best startup hubs, a strong ecosystem of proven founders and improved government support. Specifically for the space tech sector, 2022 was one for the books—where the private sector finally came of age and showcased its capability to build products for the global market. And although the current number might be small, we will soon see more ambitious entrepreneurs take up formidable missions and become space-proven.
As someone who was fortunate enough to undertake this task very early on, here are a few things that next-gen space tech entrepreneurs will need to keep in mind to forge new futures ahead.
Space entrepreneurship 101
Much like entrepreneurship in any other sector—you have to raise money, hire a great team, gain customers, and eventually make more money than you spend. But when it comes to space tech, there are some critical differences.
The risks here—financial, regulatory or executional—are significantly higher. It's necessary to have a clear vision of what the company will look like in 5 years or more. Till then, having a step-by-step plan to continuously de-risk, whether that's de-risking the technology, the actual product, the market or in a regulatory sense, i.e. having the required licenses to build/operate in space, will be key. The more you de-risk, the higher your chances of raising investments, and the higher the chances of getting more customers onboard.
It's also prudent to keep in mind that mistakes in the space sector aren't as easy to shrug off as in other sectors. If your multi-million dollar piece of hardware blows up, it's not just your money that you're losing, it's time. And time, in space more than anywhere else, is money.
As is the case with all startups, the north star should be executing near flawlessly, and getting to a point where your own revenues can sustain you without the need to further raise money externally. There are also many lucrative grant opportunities across the world that can be tapped into in the early days to get non-dilutive funding. Ultimately, the road might be more arduous but is well worth it if you keep going.
Bringing ingenuity to space tech startups
For any new space-tech entrepreneurs, it'll be important to not just focus on replicating a technology someone else has already proven but to anchor their goals in solving real problems plaguing the world.
The ideal way is to start with an identified problem and think through the first principles. Along with massive opportunities in the imaging, communication and launch vehicle spaces, there are many game-changing infrastructural technologies coming up in the next few years such as Starship, commercial space stations et al that will upend what space entrepreneurs can achieve. Building and planning solutions on top of these will give rise to more technological progress and innovation.
However, the key thing to remember is that while innovative ideas are critical, execution of those ideas within cost and time, and with a world-class team is what will set you apart.
Heralding the next era of space
The next era of space will see two conflicting ideals operate in parallel—the nationalisation as well as the globalisation of space technology. Every sovereign nation serious about its geopolitical ambitions will try and build or obtain critical space technology for itself, increasing the demand for local capabilities.
Simultaneously, we will see commercial space technologies touch hereto untouched geographies, commercial space stations work across boundaries and democratise access. As a budding space entrepreneur, you can focus on either of the above trends. It is the amalgamation of these two approaches that will lead to a vibrant global space economy.
The time is ripe to start looking beyond the earth's orbits. There are opportunities to send hardware to other planetary bodies that can by themselves grow into a viable business, build sensors to map the moon better, figure out ways to extract and use lunar resources or create new ways of propulsion to speed up our interplanetary travel times. The years ahead will present unique business models for a lunar economy, a Mars economy and an economy that ties all these bodies together.
To truly lead the next space wave, one will need to move fast without compromising on reliability and find the right trade-off. And in the truest sense, it is on this journey that you can say Per Aspera, Ad Astra (Through Adversity, To the Stars) and literally mean it. Here's your opportunity to boldly go where no one has gone before and build what no one has built before.