Riding the Startup Wave in Space


This is a guest post by Naokuni Yoshida. He is a Japanese consultant at Tokyo-based Global Innovations, trying to promote aerospace-related firms including drone startups in the US enter Asian markets.

Image credit: Spacetide Committee

On February 28, 2017 SPACETIDE Association of Japan, with support from the National Space Policy Secretariat of the Japanese Cabinet Office in addition to the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry as well as the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, not to mention the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), held at Keio University’s Fujiwara Hiroshi Hall in Hiyoshi, near Yokohama, its second Private-sector-focused Space Seminar, two years since its first gathering. After the opening speech by the head of SPACETIDE Association Masayasu Ishida, who is also Principal of consulting firm A.T. Kearney, several discussion sessions followed (although unfortunately Spire Global‘s representative was unable to make it for the “global space business” panel).

Space startups raised significant funding and made important business alliances in 2016, as this sector has grown in prominence on the global stage. The first and second panel discussions this day are of particular interest to The Bridge readers as it introduced a number of existing and new players from Japanese space startups or those working closely with such companies, with the second focused on the role of space as an “enabling” factor upon expanding business opportunities widely. The panelists discussed skill sets and team skills plus the mindsets that are essential for launching and managing a space business. The third was on global space business overall and the last session centered on bigger enterprise activities.

Image credit: “Tex” Pomeroy

The first panel comprised Dr. Lena Okajima (CEO and Founder, ALE) working to realize “asteroid” art, Shuji Ogawa (CEO and CTO of PD AeroSpace) who was trained in aerospace engineering at Tohoku University, Naruo Kanemoto (CEO of satellite kit provider Space Shift of Japan and Director of Elysium Space in the U.S., which offers memorial space flights), and Yuya Nakamura (President and CEO, Axelspace) running the Japanese microsatellite startup; it was moderated by Nomura Research Institute Senior Consultant Masashi Sato who is a member of the “Committee of Space by ICT” at the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communication.

Image credit: “Tex” Pomeroy

The Space as an Enabler session, introduced the forefront of innovation created by space with other industry and discussed the possibility of utilizing space as an enabler. The value of space for enterprises was also discussed by the panelist Kenji Oda who is
Creative Director and Chief of Dentsu Space Lab, Dentsu (TSE:4324) taking the “Space for Everyone” approach (recent work includes award-winning solutions such as an experiment where employees work in Space-like conditions, “kibo360” smartphone app simulating an astronaut life on the International Space Station, and the Google/JAXA “Space Hangout” collaboration where people on earth can video chat with an astronaut in the ISS).

Image credit: “Tex” Pomeroy

Other panelists of the second session were Satoru Konishi who is Assistant Chief Engineer, Magellan Systems Japan, currently working on the development of the new GNSS receiver with centi-meter accuracy supporting the Quasi-Zenith Satellite System which is to be fully operational around 2018; Managing Director Ken Fujiwara of Umitron, which he co-founded as a data service company for aquaculture including satellite remote sensing; and, Dr. Keiichi Masuya who is Director of biotech startup PeptiDream which is using the microgravity environment in space for new treatment agents development. The session moderator was Japanese VC firm Global Brain‘s Venture Partner Hidetaka Aoki, the “space business evangelist” which is his trademark.