International Women’s Day has been celebrated all over the world this month and we did not want to miss the chance to shine a light on the incredible women who are thriving in the space entrepreneurship arena. Here are some of the female founders of businesses incubated at the ESA Business Incubation Centres (ESA BICs) in Germany, to give you a flavour of the many women-led start-ups founded as part of the ESA Space Solutions Network. Prepare to be inspired!
Astronautin GmbH is a commercial human spaceflight company located in Bremen as part of ESA BIC Northern Germany. Based on its vision to bring the first German woman into space, Astronautin’s space portfolio focusses on services for women, offering space training to the public, corporations and organisations. Its leadership training courses are based on elements from astronaut training, while its empowerment workshops, including rocket science and hands-on space experience, are used to bring women to the top, not only in space but also in society and economy.
Claudia Kessler, Astronautin’s CEO said, “The greatest challenge we had to overcome was – and still is – starting a business based on personal experiences at the beginning of the COVID crisis. We are still in the process of overcoming this by offering online formats like bar camps, deep dives and online trainings combined with an interactive experience in the form of our ‘space experience’ packages, which are mailed to participants before the training sessions.”
Planblue develops ‘underwater satellites’ that are being used to build up a global seafloor database to enable the sustainable use and conservation of our ocean’s resources, while fostering the Blue Economy. Hannah Brocke, Co-founder and Chief Operating Officer (COO), has been working on commercial solutions to protect the oceans, since 2013. She is actively engaging with well-known company incubators, including continuous engagement with ESA BIC Northern Germany.
She describes her greatest challenge as twofold: “On the one hand I need to fully understand our company’s current and future needs, and on the other hand I need to match these needs at the right time to team building, infrastructure, strategic partners and funds. I can remember one particular moment when we urgently needed access to a testing facility, which we could not afford at that time. I solved this issue by connecting the right partners and acquiring the necessary public funds.”
Valispace is a start-up incubated at ESA BIC Northern Germany, where the team is developing a browser-based collaboration platform for engineers who are building complex hardware, such as satellites, rockets or fusion reactors. Co-founder and COO Louise Lindblad has a background in satellite systems engineering and worked across different space organisations and companies.
In the beginning, one of Valispace’s biggest challenges was to convince big enterprise customers to buy software for their core engineering activities from a small start-up team. Louise’s team persuaded them by suggesting new ideas for how to solve problems, as well as with their level of expertise. “As we have grown the team from 3 to 30 people, we have matured as a company and have faced other challenges inherent to starting a company, like setting up internal processes, hiring the best talent and fundraising”, explains Louise Lindblad.
Ajuma developed the UV-Bodyguard, a wearable device that combines UV measurement and satellite data to help people avoid sunburn, reduce their risk of developing skin cancer and monitor vitamin D levels. Founder Annette Barth MBA is a psychologist with international experience in sales, innovation and product management and the company is supported by ESA BIC Bavaria.
On its journey to bring the UV-Bodyguard to market, Ajuma’s main difficulty was gaining enough visibility to attract its first paying customers, which is crucial to short-term financing and long-term commercial success. “The way we solved it was reaching out to people – participating in different competitions like the Copernicus Masters, German Aerospace Center’s Health, Energy and Environment Challenge [which Ajuma won in 2019] and the international sports trade fair ISPO Brandnew Award in Munich, which we won as one of 10 start-ups in 2021. These competitions helped us to gain huge media coverage and get known by a wider audience within Germany”, says Annete Barth.
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These amazing women deserve great credit for the creation and growth of their companies. At ESA Space Solutions, we are also proud of the work that the ESA BICs did to support them on their journeys, including establishing their online presence and building their online marketing funnels, growing their networks and getting support from project managers and mentors. You can read about other female founders supported by ESA Space Solutions here.
And if you are an entrepreneur with a great idea for a product or service that uses space assets in any way, find out how ESA Space Solutions and the ESA BIC network across ESA Member States can support you.
ABOUT ESA SPACE SOLUTIONS
ESA Space Solutions is the go-to-place for great business ideas involving space in all areas of society and economy. Our mission is to support entrepreneurs in Europe in the development of business using satellite applications and space technology to improve everyday life. Our programme is designed to provide multiple entry points such as ESA Business Incubation Centres (ESA BICs), ESA Technology Broker Network, and ESA Business Applications programme. Funding typically ranges from 50KEuro to 2MEuro and supports everything from space technology transfer, early-stage incubation programs, Feasibility Studies to large-scale Demonstration Projects.