I recently finished reading “Zero to One”, the international bestselling book by Peter Thiel, co-founder of Paypal and Palantir. Although I didn’t agree with everything in the book, there is much to recommend about it, particularly the set of seven questions listed towards the end of the book. These questions are what the author proposes that every startup company should be able to answer, and I wanted to relate some of our thinking on this below.
Firstly, a quick note about last week’s post, playfully titled Attention: Don’t Sponsor Exodus! Some of the feedback we received was that this may have caused some confusion, especially for those who only came across the title in their media feeds, and didn’t have time to discover the tongue-in-cheek nature of the article. So to clarify: we would love for you to download our Sponsorship Prospectus and think about how sponsoring us as a space company could help elevate your company’s profile. For as little as AU$10,000 per year, sponsor companies could build a relationship with Exodus Space Systems that will help spread the excitement of Australian space exploration, could help those companies better take advantage of the growing space industry themselves, while helping us develop new technology that will benefit people in space and on Earth alike.
Here are the seven questions I mentioned, which Peter Thiel advocates every startup company be able to answer:
- The Engineering Question: Is your technology at least an order of magnitude better than the competition?
- The Timing Question: Is now the right time to start the business?
- The Monopoly Question: Are you going to start with a big share of a small market?
- The People Question: Do you have the right team?
- The Distribution Question: Can you deliver your product to paying customers?
- The Durability Question: Will your market advantage persist, decades from now?
- The Secret Question: Have you identified a unique opportunity?
For those readers who want to have a deep dive conversation into the answers Exodus Space Systems has for these questions, I encourage you to contact us. This also applies if you’re interested in sponsorship, equity investment, or can even see your company being a future customer of our space debris cleanup services.
Let’s go through each question one-by one:
- The Engineering Question. Exodus Space Systems has already done over two years of conceptual R&D on our kinetic flyby solution, which we call our “Street Sweeper for Space Debris”. By avoiding the mass costs implicit in other “rendezvous and capture” methods – propellent mass, capture mechanism mass, and deorbit mechanism mass – we are able to deorbit debris in a far more efficient manner. No matter how cheap the cost of launch becomes, a key ratio will remain how much mass is sent to orbit, versus how much (debris) mass is removed from orbit, and on this we believe our KiSSD method is at least an order of magnitude better than other proposed active debris removal (ADR) solutions.
Being a space-based, range-limited method makes it more politically tenable than other non-ADR methods like ground-based lasers, and it’s small size also makes it more plausible than mega-structure solutions like electrodynamic tethers.
- The Timing Question: As an Australian company we are in an excellent position to take advantage of recent funding developments with the Australian Government and Space Agency, as well as the exponential growth of investment in the global space sector. We also see significant new awareness of the space debris issue within the international regulatory and space insurance sectors, mainly due to the dramatic increase in satellite constellation proposals which will increase overall risk of space debris collisions in low Earth orbit.
We see the potential for a new space debris cleanup market in the mid-2020s, growing into a $1B annual market in the 2030s, which will likely be dominated by a few players. Given the timeframes of both the space industry, and of developing a deep-tech startup into a commercial organisation, we believe it is best to start now.
- The Monopoly Question: As large as we expect the space debris cleanup market to become, it is currently small, with only one established company that will not be a direct competitor for the types of services we are planning to offer. With sufficient support now, we believe we can establish ourselves as a premier service provider of space debris cleanup.
- The People Question: Our team already has significant subject matter expertise, as well as experience in advanced prototyping, capital raising and corporate governance, and active connections in both the Australian and global space industry. Once we achieve seed funding, we plan to grow our team to include more expertise in necessary engineering sub-disciplines, data science, IP protection, marketing, business development and legal competencies. We also place high value on investors who have experience mentoring deep-tech startups from the initial stages, right through the commercialisation process.
- The Distribution Question: We have identified satellite operators as our future customers, as these have the most to gain from proactive methods to lower the risk of their assets being impacted by space debris. This is particularly true for those satellite operators with plans to launch large constellations of satellites and/or those with assets in the most debris-congested polar and sun-synchronous low Earth orbits.
While we expect to reach out to these customers directly, we also see the satellite insurance industry and national space agencies as key enablers, as both groups have large financial incentives to provide easier ways for satellite operators to behave as good citizens. The current moves to encourage comprehensive planning for end-of-life satellite operations as well as reducing the timeframe by which old satellites must be de-orbited are excellent, but do not account for cases where satellites are unexpectedly lost during routine operations due to space debris collision or other electrical faults. We aim to have our KiSSD method become a new gold standard for space debris removal, and we expect these enabling parties would become active participants in this process.
- The Durability Question: Our market advantage, once achieved, would be due to our space debris cleanup method becoming a recognised best practice, and our brand would be reinforced as an enabler of good citizen space operators. Once an established space operator, we would be able work on different space technologies that also add value to this brand, eventually aiming to develop those technologies that would enable a safe exodus of humanity out into space.
- The Secret Question: Rather than trying to mimic other space startup companies, by building more communications or imaging satellites, or trying to start yet another small rocket company, we have chosen to focus on space debris cleanup, because we have identified that it is currently a small industry, but will become a service that all satellite operators will eventually need. We have already achieved significant traction and endorsements by narrowing our service down to a simple concept that everybody understands – “a street sweeper for space” – and we’re aiming to execute on our vision in a way that makes best use of our current key advantages.
I hope that helps you understand a little better what Exodus Space Systems is trying to do. If you have any further questions please feel free contact us, and one of us will be happy to have a chat.