The first batch of space tech startupers: who they are and what they do

Oleg Boiko, team Newspacelink: Space industry doesn’t just expand the boundaries; it breaks the boundaries. «We come in peace for all mankind,» says Apollo 11 plate, and reminds us that there are no countries or nations in space. There are an endless inspiration and limitless possibilities.  

I can’t believe I’m saying it, but our very first Ukrainian program for space tech startups is up and running. We’re past week 1, and I’m just getting to know the amazing teams we selected to be the first batch of Yangel Big Bang – an online pre-acceleration program powered by the Ukrainian space agency.  

The selection process was a challenge itself. Within 2 weeks, we received and processed 47 applications. Some of them were clearly half baked even for pre-acceleration, which is fine: a couple more months or another hackathon usually does the trick, and we’ve already invited those teams to try again in September. However, we received several descriptions of some fully realized products that were executed without a single customer in mind. I could see years and years of labor put into an invention without any market research or product hypothesis verification. And part of the reason for that is planned economy heritage: in Soviet times, design buroes had to deliver innovation for no reason other than innovating – vanity science, if you will. We’ll need some time to recover from that so that the science would again become driven by curiosity, venture, and market.

Radiy Radutny, team Argus: Working in space tech is really exciting, but not just that. Without the space industry, we might literally die: Meteosat saves millions of people every year. 

We’re already recovering. We managed to select 20 early-stage startups who were willing to spend 4 weeks within the pre-acceleration program. The program is focused on four different project categories, and we’ve got plenty of each.

Rockets and satellites

When we think about space tech, the first thing that comes to mind is flying machines. The Yangel batch is not an exception: we have several rockets and a couple of nanosats. Some of them are fully realized product-wise, however, my main challenge as a program director is to help each team find their own unique niche. 

At the Ukrainian space agency, we believe that each business and industry could use some space (pun intended) in their workflow. Be it agriculture, military defense, or IT; it’s good to be able to see and do things from above. Space tech can provide that kind of superpowers.

Stanislav Barantsev, team AMW Labs: There’s nothing more satisfying than a complex understanding of processes defining a device as complicated as a rocket. 

Launches and flights

This category was probably the hardest to select from, but after long and heated debates, we decided to accept two projects: one from Ukraine, and another from Australia. They are very different in terms of approach but quite similar in agenda. Both struggles with legal restrictions; both are very promising and relevant. Our program might provide the network and mentorship they need to launch, and I’m really excited to see them thrive in a couple of years.

Pavel Usatiuk, team PancakeSat: Most people don’t understand what we do, because quite a few of them know about space tech. But we believe that space will become more familiar in the nearest future, just like streaming and smartphones did. 

Space on Earth

As you’ve probably seen in the “Hidden Figures” movie, rockets won’t fly if the Earth doesn’t provide the infrastructure. This category was supposed to include launching sites and ground stations, but we ended up accepting two cybersecurity projects. Today, everything is about the safe and secure transmission of data, and our teams provide exactly that.

Oleg Boiko, team Newspacelink: I think the most valuable in the space industry is effective communication and networking. The more people unite behind a great idea, the better chance of success this idea has.

New horizons

For me, this is the most inspiring category because it includes all the reasons people fall in love with space: robots, space tourism and colonization, and of course, educational programs. I heard about astrobiology about three years ago for the first time, and look at the Yangel batch: we already have two teams who are going to grow plants in space! Another inspiring team is a bunch of young astronomers led by a 17-year-old lady. And then there’s a team gathered on a NASA Space Apps hackathon, creating a competitor for Google Earth. I hope it doesn’t sound like I’m playing favorites with this category, but I clearly am.

Lena Dragan, team WebForMyself: What will happen to the Ukrainian space industry in the future? In the nearest five years, we’ll participate in an international Moon mission, that’s on the news.

And that’s a wrap for week one, three weeks to go. Subscribe to our daily updates, if you need more space in your day-to-day life. I believe Yangel Big Bang will inspire you as much as it inspires all of us at Ukrainian space agency

Maria Yarotska, startup acceleration adviser at the State Space Agency of Ukraine

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