We talked to Naomi Kurahara of Infostellar on how to build a ground communications market that works for both satellite operators and ground station ownersand this is what she had to say.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Naomi Kurahara: We are doing good, although it’s sad that some of the kid’s places have closed.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Infostellar.
Naomi Kurahara: I was passionate about Space from an early age, so I studied and got my Ph.D. and stayed in academia as a postdoc researcher. I led the development of satellite operations and ground systems at the University of Tokyo for the small satellite development project. I then moved into the industry’s commercial side, working as a systems engineer, and founded Infostellar in 2016.
How does Infostellar innovate?
Naomi Kurahara: Our product StellarStation, is a highly innovative ground segment as a service platform. We are changing how the ground segment use is in Space, particularly for LEO operating.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Naomi Kurahara: We have all been able to work from home, so it hasn’t affected the day to date. We haven’t met with customers and potential customers, but video conferencing has helped to a degree. Onboarding a ground station has to be done in person, so that has been difficult.
Currently, we hold two company-wide meetings twice a month so that everyone can get “facetime,” and I also meet once a month with every member to check on their wellbeing. We also now provide a work from home allowance to each member and have equipped them with equipment to do their jobs from home more efficiently.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Naomi Kurahara: Fortunately, we didn’t have to make difficult choices. We did close a fund of CB funding just before the pandemic took off, and if that fundraising round had been three months late, we would have had to make some difficult choices.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
Naomi Kurahara: I have a child, so I focus my energy on him when we are together. I enjoy it, and having so much time additional time with him saves me from dealing with stress and anxiety.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Naomi Kurahara: KSAT, SSC, Atlas Space Operations do something similar, but we are all quite different in our offerings, and it is our difference that will allow us to stay in the game.
Your final thoughts?
Naomi Kurahara: COVID-19 changed many things, but it wasn’t a stopper for the space business. Infostellar business progressed, and we saw that the Space industry didn’t. Everyone kept moving forward.
This year we also saw a big IT player’s space business progress. It is interesting to see the space industry move towards and embrace cloud computing, like other industries. Infostellar will move quickly to accelerate this movement. We are all excited for 2021!