Leadership of Space Interview Series

Thanks Yossi for Taking the Time to Speak with Us About Leadership in the Space Industry. As the Owner of SpacePharma, What Would You Say Its Purpose Is?

Thank you. When you want to use the ISS as a laboratory to carry out an experiment the possibility exists that you will need to involve an astronaut. SpacePharma offers the market an alternative, a laboratory on board a miniaturised ISS that you can control remotely. This miniaturised ISS, our satellite, has two offerings. One is the remote-control use of its micro-gravity laboratories and the ability to affect their environments such as changing the level of temperature or radiation. The other offering is the control of the satellite itself for the purpose of obtaining readings such as spectrometry or telemetry.

In regard to data collection, every time there is a pass above Switzerland, so that’s six passes a day, we collect data for about 10 minutes. So, that’s 60 minutes a day, which is pretty good, we then disseminate this data directly to the client. So, the client doesn’t need to be at a ground station or engage an astronaut, they control everything remotely, so you could say it’s like digital research. In regard to cost, let’s say we can provide clients with a year’s worth of use of our laboratory for $300,000. In comparison to the cost of using the ISS this is pretty good. For example, if I remember correctly, the cost of an astronaut’s time is $50,000 an hour, which equates to only 6 hours usage in a cost comparison with our offering.

So, this is the service we are offering, and in fact we’re already providing because we are facilitating clients on board of our technology’s proof-of-concept mission. It’s an indication of the latent demand that there were clients willing to take the risk, although we were still in a development phase, and execute their experiments on this mission. And due to the successful launch of this mission, our reserve satellite is primed and ready to go. So, the next client can execute their experiment on our satellite in less than five months. Can you imagine that, we can get them into space and get them their data within three to five months from now? That’s game changing, and it aligns with our core purpose.

Actually, I think one of the most attractive things that I’ve yet to mention is that we currently provide risk coverage, and as far as I know, or rather Willis the insurers told me, we are the only CubeSat that provides insurance coverage for its clients. So, if something doesn’t work for them, and it’s within our system, not due to the launcher, we will compensate them with either their money back or another chance to execute their experiments. This is another advantage that we currently have, and it is unique to the market.

I believe if are to secure our position as market leaders, as the market grows and attracts new entrants, we must provide a premium service, and this is why we offer this coverage so the client’s laboratory environment is fully secured by insurance. This is great for our reputation, we’re building trust with our clients, and I think this is a great way to build a a sustainable service that our clients can rely upon and a sustainable market share for our company.

Returning to our purpose as a company, we are providing the tools that enable our clients to carry out important life-changing research. Their research could lead to applications that will potentially benefit all of humanity. So, I have a greater responsibility to demonstrate the viability and immediate availability of these tools to the market and ensure our proposition is competitive. That’s what we’re trying to facilitate, an increase in the volume and frequency of micro-gravity research which should, one day, bring about life-changing results for people on earth. Right now, we only have four experiments on board but within the near future we’re going to demonstrate 160 experiments within a laboratory of the same size using the same software. Our satellite has lowered the barrier to entry to do this, and will continue to increase both the volume and frequency of micro-gravity experiments.

Things that were historically beyond our capabilities are now achievable. And the drive to achieve these things is not only fuelled by the demand to succeed in business but the demand to benefit all of humanity. We must keep exploring, discussing, and creating opportunities to provide better healthcare, food, and living conditions here on earth. This is our purpose.

Your Intent Is to Expand Your Operations, How Will You Ensure Continuity of Purpose During This Change?

First of all, this is a good question. So, it’s true, we need to secure more employees to sustain the momentum that we’ve gathered in the market. Right now, SpacePharma is still a small to medium-sized entity of 25 employees. As we expand, we will consolidate two core competencies within the company, R&D and marketing.

Our competency in R&D will continue to push SpacePharma’s bar higher and improve on our current systems. Our competency in marketing will push SpacePharma’s understanding of the needs, wants, and demands of the markets it serves, including those that are mature as well as those that are nascent, that is, the ones that our new technologies are opening up. I look forward to expanding SpacePharma soon, and we will ensure our continuity of purpose by not jumping too high, too far, too early. It’s a responsibility to those that have joined us and the clients that we are building relationships with. We need to expand the company when it makes sense to do so, and when we are financially prepared for all the eventualities change brings with it.

That’s what I’m focusing on right now, it’s going to take time for the whole market to absorb the understanding of the benefits of miniaturisation, nanotechnology, and digital or rather remote research. These are things the market and, in fact, humanity have never had exposure to before. In regard to remote research, it doesn’t even need to be in the terms of orbital research, even to carry out experiments remotely in the same building is not a trivial task. All of this technology needs to be adopted and absorbed as a norm in a very sensitive way. Throughout this projected period, we think we have the responsiveness necessary to keep us in a leadership position, when the competition comes.

You know, expansion takes many forms and we look forward to integrating our capabilities into new developments as they come. Mobileye Israel recently sold for $15bn to Intel so there is an appetite in the market for new ways of doing things, and I’m trying to keep its purpose intact as its scientific, technological, and commercial capabilities increase. And these three aspects must retain a good relationship and understanding of each other to ensure the survival of the company. If this is missing, SpacePharma will suffer, so I’m always mindful of this.

Right now, it’s a fascinating journey. We’re moving from, you could say, science fiction to basic science, to its application. Remote control of your research experiments from a location of your choice is something that will redefine the experience of micro-gravity research, and I think we should even begin to coin a new word for this, a word for someone, a person, not a trained astronaut, controlling an experiment in orbit, from their location of choice on earth.

How Do You Think Your Leadership Style Will Change As You Expand Operations?

To lead is one of the biggest challenges anyone faces in a senior position, quite different to task management. You need to be sensitive to your community and have a clear vision that you can translate that will be readily understood. I have a few predefined scenarios of the changes I believe we will face as a company. It’s a kind of strategic management, and I coordinate with our senior management, when I feel that I need to communicate these scenarios to them, and how they should respond.

It should not come as a surprise, though, if there is a less than one hundred percent positive response to taking a new direction, and if people fall out of alignment with the majority, then, you need to replace them, and unfortunately, we have had to already replace people, even though we’re a small-to-medium sized company. I think, since we started, we’ve replaced 5% of the employees of the company, so, thankfully, it’s not too much. Actually, this figure is not accidentally low because we picked people that we have heritage with and we trust to deliver, and they are well compensated with cash and options.

How Do You Use Life Experiences to Improve Your Leadership Ability?

Returning to expansion, right now, I’m actually focusing on separating the different arms of the business. In Israel, SpacePharma will house its R&D capabilities, in Switzerland we will have the connection to our established clients with the opportunity to sell to them without leaving Switzerland, and in the US, where the big market place is, SpacePharma is identifying new applications for its technology, such as the development of an organ on a chip. This new application, the organ on a chip, will be executed in the United States.

In regards to my personal experience, I’ve a great deal of experience of the market in North America. I spent six years of my life in San Diego, so I’ve absorbed a good understanding of the ecosystem of US employees. I’ve also spent three and a half years in Canada. There are other places around the world as well that I’ve spent time working in. All of these cultural experiences help me to understand the cultural and behavioural differences of employees from different regions, and not to make judgements solely based on my own cultural background.

What I’m looking for from employees is their commitment. It’s also important that they are driven to improve something for humanity. People with this responsibility and commitment score the highest on my chart.

Finally, What Would You Say to Somebody Entering a Leadership Position for the First Time?

To be able to adapt along the way. To be curious of others. I don’t believe in a team with star employees. I really believe that if you assemble a team well, it knows how to coordinate and orientate itself to accomplish the task at hand. I’m don’t look for stars, I look for people that work as a group. In today’s world, it’s very important to act as a group, and to achieve the goal together. There are people like that, they’re not the best on paper, but they know how to go as a platoon or a brigade, and to proceed as a team, to progress as a team. Find these people and retain them.

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