One of the most fun parts of my job is that I have the opportunity to meet, interact and get inspired by fascinating Entrepreneurs. So I’ve decided to interview some of them as I believe that their story, challenges, and advice will inspire other entrepreneurs as well.
The second interview of this series is with Giulio Manzoni. Giulio is the founder of Micro-space.org, a company that develops and launches custom-made nanosatellites, based in Singapore. Look up and you might even see 2 of his satellites orbiting the earth (just kidding, you won’t see them). If you don’t know what nanosatellites are, you are missing out. Geospatialworld.net describes them as “those satellites that are just about the size of your shoe box. But, they can do almost everything a conventional satellite does, and that too at a fraction of the cost. Which is why everybody — from government organizations and start-ups to educational institutes — is scrambling to get a piece of the small-sat pie.” Or as Giulio puts it, they allow you to bring “space down to earth”. You don’t read much about this sector in the general or trade press and that’s a pity, as it is one of the most exciting technological development areas there is.
What is your Microspace and why did you start your business?
Our business has evolved in over 15 years from R&D of Space micro-propulsion technologies to development and operation of nanosatellites. This means we started by working on government-funded research contracts, moved on to develop satellites for specific clients and we are finally reaching the market of applications enabled by our proprietary satellite technologies and experience. We started when nanosatellites were more or less “science fiction” at the turn of the millennium; we were a small community of pioneers at that time, less than a dozen people worldwide meeting at a specific conference in Texas once per year. I wanted to do something special based on my mechanical engineering background and passion for Space… not really thinking of “making money” at all.
What keeps you up at night? (Your biggest challenge?) And how do you try to tackle that challenge?
The biggest challenge is always to fund the most meaningful projects. We could ride on the various waves or ripples of the high-tech bubbles that are coming and going (3D printing, New-Space, Big-Data, AI, BlockChain, etc…), sprinkling our pitches with fashionable buzzwords, networking and courting the moods of the markets to entice regular clients and investors and move with the flow… but this is not really interesting. As we are pioneers, always over 10 years ahead of everybody else, we want to stay that way and keep working on visionary topics. Unfortunately, now our field is somehow getting crowded with stuff that is apparently promising fast returns and yet still needs to maintain such promises. The proverbial “low hanging fruit” makes people rush on relatively easy things and get them quickly skeptical as well while they ignore or reject the truly challenging ventures… or is it precisely their nature and what they are taught to do?
How we tackle this… never stop dreaming… after all, what else you want to do at night?
What is the single most successful thing you are doing that is helping you grow your business?
Actually we are not really in to “just growing business”, we are more in to finding the proper balance between business and knowledge growth, otherwise, as I mentioned before, we could be already running obvious stuff, I mean something not really special that could be easily done (and is already done) by others.
So, the most successful thing is at the moment to stay small, flexible and capable to dream while carefully selecting compatible partners.
Based on your own experience, what advice would you give other entrepreneurs and small business owners?
I am afraid my own experience is not in the mainstream and may not suit many entrepreneurs or regular small business owners, but if I may say something, this is it: never bend yourself to compromises, the client is not always right and, for the real good of Mankind And the Environment (not necessarily in this order), always consider if what we do is actually necessary or superfluous… and in the latter case: do something else.
What is your favorite online resource? (if you have any)
At the moment I am using LinkedIn even if I am annoyed by most of the unwanted and extremely silly advertisements. I also use search engines and I guess Google pops-up automatically on the browser and I never bother to search for a different one as I could, or should… my fault. Wikipedia is of some good use and I recently discovered Issuu.com where I can find plenty of literature on the most different topics.
If you are an entrepreneur and would like to be part of this series, send me an email. I’d love to hear from you and your business. First The Trousers is a brand strategy an innovation boutique with a special suite of strategic services for Entrepreneurs, start-ups and small business owners.