Our postgraduate researcher Angus Laurenson returned recently from the 3 day SpaceTech Entreprenuers Programme (February 2018) at Exeter Science Park – with a lot of new knowledge about the space industry and start-up businesses in general. Funded by the UK Space Agency and delivered by the South West Centre of Excellence in Satellite Applications, SETsquared Exeter and Goonhilly Earth Station, SpaceTech is the perfect start-up accelerator to create a product or business using satellite data and technology.
The event provided a platform for the UK space industry to report on latest developments and iniatives, with particular focus on the southwest (for example on the proposed spaceport at Newquay airport and Goonhilly earth station). Talks ranged from startup incubators explaining what funding and support is available for startups or other businesses to the UK space agency’s outlook as well as established players in the commercial space industry such as Thales Alenia, a large European satellite manufacturer, and Spirent, a local GPS calibration and testing company.
The majority of the programme was however dedicated to a hands-on team challenge: development of a spacetech business cases. Among the contestants was the Flann Microwave team consisting of James Watts, CEO of Flann Microwave; Oliver James, Flann Microwave; Angus Laurenson, PhD Student in the CDT for Metamaterials, University of Exeter; and Evie James, Undergraduate at Exeter Business school, Penryn.
Angus summarised the business case challenge his team set for itself: how to break into the space market where satellite manufacturers are extremely risk averse and are unwilling to take on a supplier who has not had their hardware flown into orbit yet. To tackle this challenge they focussed on applying the “golden circles of business“, the idea being that a company does not market its products, instead it should market its values to trigger an emotional response that resonates strongly with the customer.
The team’s strategy was to find ways to deploy Flann products into space, whilst at the same time leveraging the good reputation for reliability and quality that Flann enjoy with their existing customer base in order to spread that trust to new clients.
Angus learned a lot about market segmentation (who they were going to target specifically), pricing methods, estimating the size of the opportunity, development of the business finances (operating profit, gross revenues, costs etc), and the different sales models a business can operate.
A “3 minutes – 3 slides” pitch of the participants’ business plans on problem / solution / opportunity concluded the day. Oliver James, a new recruit at Flann Microwave, presented on behalf of the Flann team how they were going to grow their business and turn a profit – and, rest assured, the team won the best pitch award.
Angus conclusion on the experience: “We won the best pitch award, which was the icing on the cake, and I would recommend those interested to attend the next rendition of this workshop.”