CleanTechies Podcast

#140 Big Oil Bogeyman, Watching Your Satellites Launch, Biz Model First, & More w/ Dan Katz (Orbital Sidekick)

December 12, 2023 Silas Mähner (CT Headhunter) & Somil Aggarwal (CT PM & Investor) Season 1 Episode 140
CleanTechies Podcast
#140 Big Oil Bogeyman, Watching Your Satellites Launch, Biz Model First, & More w/ Dan Katz (Orbital Sidekick)
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Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

🌎 Today, Silas had the opportunity to interview Dan Katz, the Co-Founder, and CEO of Orbital Sidekick, where they are building, and launching Hyperspectral Satellites to help catch methane leaks in pipelines, and, hopefully, one day, identify geographies that have critical minerals underneath the surface.

He started in the aerospace industry, building satellites for other organizations. In the wake of the frothy space exploration market, Dan and his colleague believed they could also build a company in this space. This, paired with their realization that the ocean was boiling, led them to focus on catching methane leaks.

He has a pretty interesting story and method of building the company. I'm sure you'll enjoy it! 🌎

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🌎 If you'd like to see the full PodLetter, go to our substack to see all the written content that supplements the audio interview.  
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📺 👀 Prefer to watch: Subscribe on YouTube.

Want to be part of the community and engage further? Check out the Slack Channel. https://tinyurl.com/mwkn8zk5

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Topics: 

  • 2:00 Intro to Dan
  • 5:45 How to Identify Subsurface Minerals
  • 12:00 Why he Became an Entrepreneur
  • 19:00 PMF & MVP
  • 22:00 GTM & Raising
  • 26:00 Watching Their Launch
  • 31:15 Challenges
  • 35:34 Talent 
  • 39:00 Take the Leap

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Links:
**Connect with Dan: https://www.linkedin.com/in/katzdaniel34/
**Orbital Sidekick: https://www.orbitalsidekick.com/
**Check out our Sponsor, NextWave Partners: https://www.next-wavepartners.com/
**Follow CleanTechies on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/clean-techies/
**@Silas & @Somil_Agg on Twitter / X 

Support the show

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SPEAKER 3: Dan Katz

So our big thing was like, well, we know we'll get to the satellites, but like you said, it costs a lot of money.

You have to raise a lot of money to do that.

So let's make sure we have the business plan in place first.


SPEAKER 2: Silas Mähner

Welcome back to the CleanTechies Podcast, where we interview the top climate tech founders and investors to share their stories, advice, and lessons when it comes to building and investing in climate.

Today, I had the chance to speak with Dan Katz, the CEO and co-founder of Orbital Sidekick, where they are using hyperspectral satellites to identify methane leaks in various different types of pipelines.

They are also working toward being able to identify geographies with a high potential for critical minerals below the surface.

You know, think the types of minerals that are critical to the successful energy transition and climate revolution generally.

Dan has an experience working in aerospace and space industries so he had quite a lot of familiarity with the industry designing satellites and even had contacts with SpaceX from some of the launches that the companies he worked at in the past have participated in.

Given he and some of his colleagues had an understanding of the space, they decided to launch into their own company.

And today, they have several satellites in the air already that they are working on increasing the capacity of beyond simply monitoring methane leaks.

It's a really interesting story what Dan has.

I really enjoyed hearing kind of everything about it.

There's many, many takeaways.

I won't share them here.

Just listen to the episode.

And we really do hope you enjoy this conversation with Dan.

And we will get to that right after we hear from our sponsors, Next Wave Partners.

Hey there.

Are you building a climatech business and looking for very specialized talent?

Consider reaching out to our sponsors, NextWave Partners.

NextWave are experts in talent acquisition, recruitment, and retention across the climatech, renewables, and ESG spaces globally.

So if your team is growing or you're looking to make a career change yourself, feel free to reach out to NextWave at next-wavepartners.com or reach out to one of their consultants directly via their LinkedIn page.

All right.

Welcome to the show, Dan.

How's it going today?


SPEAKER 3: Dan Katz

Great.

Thanks for having me on, Silas.

Really appreciate it.


SPEAKER 2: Silas Mähner

Yeah, super excited to have you on.

This is going to be definitely a different show than we've had before.

I can't say that we've had anybody who's... Maybe we have, but I don't think we've had anybody who's launched satellites in their company.

So let's get into it, I guess.

Tell us a little bit about who you are and what you're doing today.


SPEAKER 3: Dan Katz

Yeah.

So my name is Dan Katz.

I'm the CEO and co-founder of a company called Orbital Sidekick.

And in kind of at a very high level, what we do is we have a constellation of hyperspectral satellites that we use to fuel our intelligence platform that can chemically fingerprint anything on earth.

And so it was kind of a very broad 500,000 foot view of things.

But really what this means is that we can go after and monitor

Critical Energy Infrastructure Around the Globe in a Scalable, Objective, Accurate Means by leveraging this satellite technology.

And when I say chemical fingerprinting, I really mean that, you know, I can identify things, everything from methane to liquid hydrocarbon spills, to monitoring chemical weapons detection in denied access areas, all sorts of different things, kind of application agnostic, and happy to dive into the technology.


SPEAKER 2: Silas Mähner

So that's pretty fascinating.

There's a lot of things I don't understand there.

So can you explain what does hyperspectral mean?


SPEAKER 3: Dan Katz

Sure.

So yeah, in a simple way, what I like to think of, so as I mentioned before, hyperspectral is a means to chemically fingerprint objects.

And to dive in here, it's everything reflects and absorbs light in a unique manner.

And we usually see that with our eyes.

You know, we see something's green or red or blue.

um and you know when we take a picture with our iphone you know we're we're getting we're getting that photo and we're looking at the the um the spectral signature in the visual the visual light realm and basically intensity of red green and blue at various intensities that's what gives us the the different colors on your screen with hyper spectral we don't have just access to three color bands in the visual spectrum we have access to

Hundreds of Color Bands in the Visible Through Infrared Light Regions.

And again, because things reflect and absorb light in a unique manner throughout the electromagnetic spectrum, that allows us to really, again, do that chemical fingerprinting.

So we can see things that you wouldn't be able to see with the naked eye, like methane, which is really critical, obviously, for climate tech applications.

It's really critical to our end users and customers who are within the energy sector, like pipeline operators.

You know, we want to help prevent and detect leaks.

And again, this is very application agnostic.

People have used hyperspectral for lots of things in the past and present.

They've used it for mining applications.

So looking at

mineral exploration for battery storage materials.

So looking for signatures of nickel or cobalt or lithium, things that are like rare earth elements, because each of these elements, each of these minerals have a different reflectance and absorption features within the visible and infrared light region.

And so our sensors and our intelligence platform can detect those signatures and identify them and then

Relay That Information to Relevant Parties


SPEAKER 2: Silas Mähner

Hey there.

Thanks for listening to this episode.

If you made it this far, it's likely that you're enjoying the show, so I wanted to ask your help.

If you're enjoying it, please give us a review on Apple Podcasts and share with somebody in the same industry who might find this interesting.

And if you're interested in getting summaries of these episodes, go subscribe to our newsletter that comes out on LinkedIn and Substack.

Links can be found in the description.

Thanks for your help in growing the reach of this show.


SPEAKER 3: Dan Katz

That's a very great question, and it's something that comes up often as questions.

So the short answer is no, we cannot.

This isn't like some special x-ray vision where we can see down subsurface level of solid surface.

But so for those mining applications, you know, we're not looking down to maybe directly see a cobalt or a nickel deposit, but when they're

is the presence of those minerals in the subsurface.

They usually, there are certain things on the, on the surface of the earth that we call alteration minerals that would indicate that there's likely a presence of those, of those other minerals below the surface.

So that's kind of what we're looking at.

So those kinds of indicators, but what that means really, and this kind of gets to this intelligence platform piece of the company is that

you need a ton of data to kind of process and go through to look for these kind of secondary features that would indicate the presence of something that's hidden below.

So having access to our own satellites that can persistently monitor the earth, that can capture petabytes of data on an annual basis that can really, and then we can parse through that data using a very well-trained

machine learning algorithms and AI models can actually help us understand better the nature of the earth and the planet and basically creating this global hyperspectral atlas of the world that allows us to do this chemical fingerprinting at scale.


SPEAKER 2: Silas Mähner

Yeah, so this is quite interesting.

So how do you then, maybe we're getting a little too far into the weeds, but I do want to ask this question, is how do you identify

existing location.

So you say, okay, we know there was a mine here, but what did anybody look there before we started digging to see what it looked like on top?

Like, how do you reconcile what was naturally prior to any intervention?

Like, how do you reconcile these two things and identify it?

Are you having a hypothesis once the satellites check out an area and then you go have somebody test it out?

How do you verify all that?


SPEAKER 3: Dan Katz

Yeah, so first off, I just want to lay the, you know, just

a quick disclaimer on this.

So the mining application for us is more nascent than where we are on the energy side of things in terms of mainly on like the oil and gas for leak detection, leak prevention.

But we're starting to go into mining.

But what we've seen so far from customer demand and how we've been doing some kind of initial forays into the mining side is that a company like one of the big mining operators would say, we want you to map all of Australia.

for to look for signs of, you know, lithium or cobalt or nickel or one of these elements or maybe all of those elements and then or minerals and then and then provide a mineral map of that entire area.

And then they that operator can then use their own ground truthing or their own existing maps to kind of identify.

Yeah, this is the most likely area where we need to do further exploration activities or

spend our resources more effectively or efficiently.

So that's one way that people do it.

So we're kind of the macro scale, you know, scalable global monitoring and then that allows people to divert their more micro scale, high, high resolution, you know, boots on the ground type exploration activities much more effectively and efficiently.

So you don't have to do all of Australia, you're just doing a smaller

One Square Co-operative Area.

So that's kind of how that goes.

And then, yeah, there are some pre-existing maps that people can use and leverage.

But it is, at the end of the day, it's a big data play.


SPEAKER 1: Somil Aggarwal

We wanted to take a quick break to tell you about another Climatech podcast.

Well, literally.

Ryan Grant Little hosts a podcast called Another Climatech Podcast where he interviews Climatech founders and VCs, which, as I'm sure if you're listening to this podcast, you will love.

So we highly recommend checking him out.

The link will be in the description to this episode.

Now back to the show.


SPEAKER 3: Dan Katz

Right.

So you know, the more data you have,

the more that you adjust into your models and using pre-existing information and data and combining that with new data in order to get the highest degree of certainty that you have a find on hand.


SPEAKER 2: Silas Mähner

Yeah.

No, this makes a lot of sense.

I think it's something that's come up quite a few times with the VCs we've bumped into recently that they're talking about this and identifying companies that can collect climate-related data.

And I find it quite fascinating just to maybe

Take a step back to try to iterate this in a different way for the listener that essentially you're just providing, you know, the moat is it's hard to launch satellites and get them in the air, but especially, you know, we have satellites, but these ones can read different things, right?

So now instead of having just a map of the world, you're providing the hardware that's capable of identifying everything.

and then maybe an individual company with specific knowledge of, you know, whether it's mining or something else can then purchase that data and then look through it and utilize it in their own way.

So there's a couple questions I have around that in more detail we can get into, but I think it'd be a good point to pause and go back to how did you get into this, right?

How did you decide to build this company?

How'd you come up with the idea?

And, you know, why'd you become an entrepreneur in the first place?


SPEAKER 3: Dan Katz

Yeah, that's a,

Great question.

So, basically the company started in 2016, really in my garage in San Francisco.

And it was kind of one of these stereotypical Silicon Valley startup stories where my co-founder Tushar Prabhakar, who's a brilliant guy, the two of us, we were working at a company called Space Systems Loral, or SSL, which is a

Commercial Satellite Manufacturer here in the San Francisco Bay Area.

They're actually now part of a company called Maxar.

Anyway, when we were there, we were building satellites for other customers.

So we would build these big, massive communication satellites that were like the size of your kitchen.

And we'd launch them into space and then sell that, and they would be handed off to customers like DirecTV or Dish Network or SiriusXM Radio.

So these big communication systems.

And we're also there, we were, there were, this is kind of the, you know, early 2010s, we started to see this emergence of companies like SpaceX, which were providing faster, better, cheaper access to space.

And that started to fuel some more frothiness among VCs to invest in startups that were

to launch satellites, so smaller businesses that aren't like big public companies or first world governments.

So you have companies like Planet or Skybox and some others that maybe some of your listeners might be familiar with, maybe not.

The point is that you saw this emergence of, you know, you didn't need billions of dollars to launch satellites.

You needed, you know, maybe a hundred million dollars to launch satellites.

And so we saw that happening where this small satellite infrastructure was being

Um, put into place.

And then what we also saw at the same time was that, you know, the world's burning.

Uh, so you have.

Right.

A lot of issues that are happening with, in terms of climate change.

Um, you have, uh, you know, massive issues with, uh, energy security and infrastructure security, um, both here domestically and abroad.

Um, and, and we don't really have like a fantastic way to scalably monitor

all this really critical energy infrastructure that is needed to, to, you know, provide power to people across our country and across the globe, but also as a major source of methane emissions, which is a direct, you know, cause of climate change.

And so what we, we kind of combined a lot of things.

We combined our satellite backgrounds.

We combined this confluence of technological advances, like with launch access with SpaceX and commoditization of some satellite

components that were happening.

I've got a background in physics and astronomy and astrophysics.

So that's where I got first exposed to hyperspectral technology.

So using, using basically imaging spectroscopy to look at the chemical composition of celestial objects like stars and, and planets, and basically saying we can use this high spectral resolution data, point it back at earth to do that chemical fingerprinting, which we talked about earlier.

And then my co-founder Tushar, he had aerospace background, but he also had energy startup background.

So he worked for some companies that had done some startups that had done things like turning CO2 into cement for carbon sequestration and building supplies.

Worked for some wind turbine companies.

So we kind of combined all of that together and said, you know, many late nights, weekends, you know, bar sessions, whatever have you.

kind of in 2015, early 2016, to say, let's build a company around this where we can leverage this hyperspectral technology.

We can put it on small satellites to get global coverage, do this chemical fingerprinting, and then apply the data and the insights that we extract from that data specifically to, you know, move it towards, apply it to energy transition.

Um, and, and our foot in the door was really, uh, actually oil and gas pipeline operators because, um, it's a scalable, it's a, it's a scale issue, right?

Where there's millions of miles of pipeline across the U S and the globe.

Um, and there, the oil and gas sector contributes 40% of all methane leaks.

So, you know, that we clearly there's an issue there.

Um, they're not monitoring their, their infrastructure effectively.

And we have a scalable solution to be able to monitor that and help reduce and prevent methane leaks.

So that was our go-to-market strategy.

And that really was critical for us was identifying that initial foot in the door.

Because as an entrepreneur, when you're starting a company, one thing that can quickly kill your company, especially when you have big ideas with your technology, is trying to boil the ocean, which is a very overused,

Term I feel like you probably hear it a lot, but it's very true Don't try to boil the ocean.

You have to make sure you do at least one thing exceptionally well Before you start trying to scale and grow and to be everything for everyone So that was our big thing at the beginning.

We really were hyper focused on providing monitoring solutions to the to the midstream sector to oil and gas pipeline operators so we can help you

meet and exceed regulatory compliance, help you prevent and detect leaks.

And that's what we set out to do.

And that's what we're doing today.

And then things like mining or going to agriculture, there's defense and intelligence.

There's all sorts of other applications, but these are all things that, you know, as you grow in scale, you can start going into, but you don't want to try to do again.


SPEAKER 2: Silas Mähner

Yeah.


SPEAKER 3: Dan Katz

You don't want to do everything for everyone.

Otherwise you'll do nothing.

Silas Mähner


SPEAKER 2: Silas Mähner

to try and do, if you will, maybe cool the ocean all at once rather than just a local lake or something.

Usually, we're all trying to cool the earth right here.

But the thing I'd like to... Yeah.

So we understand what you guys are doing.

And we saw how you identified the opportunity.

How do you actually get started with something like this, right?

So you go from working your other jobs and doing some stuff in your garage, and then maybe you have the technology.

How do you actually go to having a product?

you know, you got to launch satellites, right?

And you need money to do that.

So can you explain kind of the process of the actual MVP?

How did you identify that people were willing to pay for this?

And then how were you able to go from that to raise money to then launch something?


SPEAKER 3: Dan Katz

Right.

Yeah.

So, so very early on, we, well, we, we leveraged a lot of our existing network to see

kind of try out the product market fit hypotheses for various industries, but leveraged, you know, we even did like cold outreach on LinkedIn just to see, you know, can we identify some operators or executives within the oil and gas pipeline world that are willing to talk to us and willing to help us, you know, synthesize this really big idea we had around monitoring

their assets.

And so we're able to build kind of an informal advisory board very early on where you're really just giving them a handful of shares like equity and the company just to talk with you and bounce ideas off of just to see, you know, does this make sense?

Are we on the right path?

You know, formulate this go-to-market strategy.

But that was really the key thing was, you know,

We, the satellites and the technology, that's, that's all kind of happening in the background as well.

But, you know, building, building satellites and launching satellites just for, you know, just to kind of say, well, let's just do that.

And then we'll figure out a business plan later.

That was, that was a bad idea.

I think it's a bad idea.

I don't think people have tried to do it.

I think they've failed.

It's, you know, trying to build technology for technology's sake is a very challenging path to take.

So our big thing was like, well, you know, we know we'll get to the satellites, but like you said, it costs a lot of money.

You have to raise a lot of money to do that.

So let's make sure we have the business plan in place first.

So that's where we started.

We really started on the business side.

And so once we, we knew that we had product market fit there by building this advisory board, just customer discovery, making sure that we had people lined up who were, you know, we knew that, that we could turn them into raving fans.

We were able to provide this monitoring service for them.

and solve a real problem for them and that there's a big market there.

Then it was, okay, now we can go out and start raising money to convince VCs to put money into this, to build the satellites, to launch them, to operate them and get this going.

So 2016 and 2017 was really for us about the market side and that go-to-market strategy.

And then kind of towards the end of 2017, we started

we raised a bit of friends and family, a small friends and family round that helped us put some money towards putting our first space mission together.

So what we did instead of going out and say, we're going to launch, you know, 10 satellites, that's going to cost, you know, $50 million.

So let's see a better way that we get to space faster and cheaper.

So for about $100,000 and leveraging some NASA grant money,

we can build a small tech demo.

That's about the size of a shoe box.

We can launch our first hyperspectral, uh, satellite or hyperspectral camera system, launch that to international space station.

Um, because the international space station is actually a national lab, um, in the same vein that, um, like Sandia or Oak Ridge or Lawrence Livermore, or any of these kinds of some of your listeners might be familiar with.

And because of that,

they actually have to provide some grant money for the public to be able to access them.

So we applied for that grant and they accepted it.

They matched some funds and they allowed us to launch our little hyperspectral camera demo to the space station in 2018.

And that was kind of the first time we actually got to demonstrate the hyperspectral technology in orbit.

And

That was really kind of the beginning of more of the ramp of being able to start taking in external venture money.

Because we were able to demonstrate that, you know, between the technology working in space, getting data down and showing that we can use it for our go-to-market strategy.

That was the validation point that VCs needed to see.

And then, and then raising capital was, you know, more straightforward from there.

Um, so then it was a matter of, okay, you've kind of done the MVP.

Now let's, let's start building upon it.


SPEAKER 2: Silas Mähner

Hey there, quick break to remind any founders or VCs listening.

If you are looking for deal flow, seeking to raise funding, looking for partners to help service your needs, or perhaps you're looking for corporate investment partners, feel free to reach out to us through our Slack channel, which can be found in the description.

Because we meet a lot of people in this space, we set aside time each week to make introductions to the various people that we encounter.

This is something we do free of charge in order to help these incredible companies solving climate change to scale.

Looking forward to hearing from you in the Slack channel.


SPEAKER 3: Dan Katz

And so then, so that little mission on the space station was launched in 2018, operated for over a year on the space station.

And then from there, you know, it was, so that we raised a series seed in 2018, raised a series A in 2020 and early 2021.

And that was used to, the series A was used to fund

our main commercial hyperspectral constellation of satellites, which we're in the process of launching right now.

We've got three satellites that we launched earlier this year, and we have three more satellites launching next year.

And now we're really in the commercialization and growth phase today.


SPEAKER 2: Silas Mähner

There's a lot of things that that's that's by the way, that's super epic and I love to be able to hear I mean to think that it's only you could do it for a hundred thousand To get your initial product into space is pretty awesome.

Obviously, there's some grant money involved, but that's that's pretty cool I think that that maybe gives people who are building Probably slightly less technical stuff on earth a little bit of hope that they can achieve it as well right maybe maybe get people to think outside the box when it comes to funding models, but

Of all the things that I really want to cover, I'd say one of the big things I'd be really curious just because, you know, we don't have people with your perspective on often, would be what was it like to watch those satellites go up?

You said you launched three of them earlier this year, right?

So I'm assuming they were, it wasn't the entire payload of the launch, right?

You probably were

along with some other people can talk about that.

And then just talk about what it felt like to watch it because, you know, SpaceX has done this quite a few times, but you never know, right?

Things could always go wrong.

So I kind of want to hear your emotions there.


SPEAKER 3: Dan Katz

Yeah, I mean, it is, you know, it's really fun to watch a rocket launch because, you know, it's like when you say like, oh, it's launch day, you know, and typically it's like a product launch, like a software launch, a website's going live, but it's kind of cool to have like a literal launch.

of something, right?

And it's a fun event that you can invite your customers and investors to and all that.

But there's, yeah, it's definitely nerve wracking.

It's because it's quite binary, right?

I mean, this thing could quite literally blow up on the launch pad or blow up on the way to orbit, or doesn't deploy your satellite correctly.

So there are, there are definitely some like critical things that that need to go right.

But as you said, SpaceX, so yeah, we leverage SpaceX, they've had

I mean, knock on wood, they've launched probably 200 launches in a row without any issue.

So it feels like they've kind of made, as crazy as it is, they've kind of made space launches or rocket launches boring for all intents and purposes, like relatively speaking, which is a good thing.

Like it's a good thing for the industry that we want it to be boring.

But it is, yeah, you always have that kind of moment in your stomach.

But what was actually really funny was that

um for so actually so we launched yeah we had three satellites launched this year over two launches one our first launch we had in April had two satellites and we had another launch in June which had one satellite um and yes it is on a it's on a rocket with many other satellites so it's kind of like the like it's kind of like a like the taking the bus to space yeah and like a lot of people hop on the bus you pay your fare and then SpaceX launches you into space and our satellite was one of

I think there were 70 other satellites on that, on each one of these rockets.

So they call it like the rideshare program to space.

So anyway, it's a way for us, it's a way to provide access for companies that couldn't buy a whole rocket by themselves.

Anyway, so the first launch though, our very first launch in April, we had two satellites on it.

We invited everyone to our office in San Francisco, like all of our,

a lot of customers, investors, friends, family, you know, a company we're all watching the, you know, the clock's counting down, you know, 15, 14, 13, 12, 11, 10, nine, eight.

And then the screen just blacks out because so SpaceX doing a live stream, it just blacks out.

And all of a sudden, the launch has been canceled today.

Like, wait, what just happened?

They didn't provide any detail.

Like, Oh, like, did something happen?

Did it blow up on the pad?

Did something crazy happen?

And then we have some, you know, friends and other folks who work at SpaceX, we're like texting them, like what just happened?

The live feed just went, you know, went dark, what happened?

And apparently a helicopter had flown into the restricted airspace surrounding the rocket launch, which was launching out of Vandenberg here in California.

So some helicopter, some looky-loo that was trying to get like a good, you know, shot of the rocket, of the launch.

Cause yeah, I just gone too close to the airspace.

And so they had to call out the entire launch.

And so it's just like, okay, great.

So I had to wait a whole other day for it to launch.

So, so there's a risk there, you know, like you can just, you know, you could get really close to the launch and then, then some idiot in a helicopter cancels the launch for the day.

I mean, it could also just as well be like, you know, I've, I've seen other launches where, you know, I've gone out in person, gone to like Cape Canaveral

um or or other place um to to watch a launch and you know if the weather isn't perfect then yeah yeah of course today as well so that's a usually more common thing so there's a risk in like seeing it but yeah it is very i mean it is like it's very nerve-wracking but it's also like an incredible um it's an incredible thing to experience to watch um and yeah so i i would encourage if people have the opportunity to ever go see it live like in person it's great like you can feel

the vibration from miles and miles away.

If it's a night launch, it's like a whole other sun rising.

It's amazing.


SPEAKER 2: Silas Mähner

Yeah, it's definitely on my list of things I want to do.

I never get bored of watching the rockets land, especially.

It's my favorite part, usually.

But that's really cool.

I appreciate that experience and walking us through that.

We're getting pretty short on time, but let me see.

What would be some of the big things I'd like to know?

When it comes to

I guess the biggest challenges so far, what would you say those have been?

And what are you looking forward to as the next challenges that you have to kind of overcome now that you've gotten to a point where, you know, you've got customers, you're getting, you got things in the air.

And from there, it's kind of, it should be general growth and just figuring out things.

What, what have been the challenges?

How'd you overcome them?

And what, what are your next challenges?


SPEAKER 3: Dan Katz

Yeah, well, I mean, I can talk all day about like technology challenges.

I know we've talked a lot about the technology stuff today.

You know, I, but I think that the,

it inevitably though, it is a business at the end of the day.

So you need to drive customer demand.

You need to have really good product market fit.

So making sure, and even if you think you have good product market fit, you know, that big challenge is finding perfect product market fit because things are so competitive right now and you just need to really build a perfect product for your customers.

So that's always been the big challenge for us.

And, and one of the big things, and I think, which is just like good advice that we received early on and continue to receive from building, you know, from bringing smart advisors in alongside of us is just always be in contact with your customers and having those touch points.

So really having deep, deep knowledge of, of what, you know, your early customers want and need, and making it, you know, really embedding yourself within your customers and treating them as partners.

um, and that's been really helpful for us.

And so, because we're, we're looking to, to, you know, tackle some big issues, right.

And, and anything in climate tech is going to be big issue involved, right?

So having, having people that are raving fans, um, you know, who really want your products that can use it and leverage it, that's, that's really critical and having them on your side.

So for us, our, one of our strategies was, well, let's, you know, the,

within the oil and gas industry, which is often treated as, you know, the boogeyman in climate tech, you know, recognizing that like, look, these, these, you know, oil and gas pipelines are not going away tomorrow, right?

Like it's part, they're part of the energy transition, but let's make sure that they are operated safely, effectively, and efficiently, and they're not going to leak, right?

That's, that's good for everyone.

Right.

And so,

recognizing that we should be working, let's work with them.

Let's provide a service that they're going to use and, and feel that it's a tool and not a weapon against them, I think was a really critical thing for us to position early on.

It was a big challenge to, to overcome their initial fear that we were just kind of these, you know, Silicon Valley tech bros who were going to come in and try to disrupt their industry and, and like kind of, you know, and kind of, you know, dismiss us right off the bat.

So I think.

you know, trying to be taken seriously by the energy sector, which needs to happen.

Right.

Anytime with climate tech, like we can't, we can't just like force issues down people's, the throat, the throats of all the energy companies, just expect them to change overnight.

Like you have to embed, you have to, you know, change like that.

You have to be very intentional about how we go about changing and steering the ship

In The Right Direction.

know the right people and have a really good response.


SPEAKER 2: Silas Mähner

Now that makes a lot of sense.

I think it's very important to be particular about how you approach conventional players, whether it's oil and gas or some other, you know, space in the kind of conventional space that you're hoping to help them decarbonize because they, in many cases, have very high capex for what they've built.

And even though it's a huge, you know, usually these are multi-billion dollar companies, they

I'm assuming if I'm a, you know, if I'm a CEO or I'm a big time manager at one of those companies, there's still probably a lot of fear of loss, right?

Because you could do something that breaks the machine, right?

And if you break the machine, you know, metaphorically speaking, you can have billions of dollars of loss, right?

So it makes a lot of sense.

One last thing I'd like to get your take on is in terms of teams.

So can you talk a little bit about identifying talent,

how you attract talent and how you keep them motivated, especially in this space where you're working, kind of straddling across various industries of what you're looking to serve.

But, you know, focused in your space in kind of the space exploration or satellite business.

I don't know how you call it usually, but can you just talk about that, the talent side of things?


SPEAKER 3: Dan Katz

Yeah, well, I think that, yeah, I mean, the talent side is everything, right?

The team is

is really kind of the, the critical piece here.

So early on, it was about attracting, you know, some, some higher level advisors who could help, as I mentioned before, and kind of helping them formulate, which gives you an idea of what kind of people you need to bring into your team.

But, and then I think for us, you know, we, we had some growing pains early on where, you know, we, we brought in like a nice core group of people early on, and then we, then we got some capital in and we, we actually, I think we grew too fast.

um, because, and we kind of brought in people that maybe didn't work completely aligned on kind of the, um, more of the, uh, uh, move fast and break things and kind of the, like understanding how the hustle that is required in an early stage startup.

Um, so I had to do a bit of a restructuring in order to really get people who were highly motivated on mission, uh, to, you know, that, that recognize that what we're building here is, is

pretty amazing to be able to launch stuff in space is really, really fun.

It's, it's a great way to keep people motivated, involved, you know, again, with these launches and things like that.

And, but also, you know, being able to say that, Hey, we can, we can help really change the world and we can help, you know, help navigate the energy transition, I think is a very big mission statement.

So it, we've had,

which has been great for recruiting as well.

You know, we'll get people from like the Fang companies coming to us and saying, well, yeah, like someone at Facebook was like, yeah, I'm, I'm getting tired of just really building, you know, algorithms, models to, to, you know, trick people into watching advertisements.

Like that's basically my job at these big tech companies.

So it's like, you know, I can't offer you the pay.


SPEAKER 2: Silas Mähner

Silas Mähner Talks

some level of climate knowledge because every part of the ecosystems generally will have something to do with sustainability or climate, right?

So they have to have an understanding of it.

So I do kind of find it interesting how early on you may hire for somebody who has the sustainability knowledge or you may hire for somebody who has the technical knowledge who's interested in sustainability.

or in the case of sales, you hire somebody who just has relationships, right?

So there's a lot of really kind of fascinating parts and moving things there, but we are out of time, but this has been really a pleasure.

We'll probably have to do this again at some point.

What's your kind of final call to action and where people can reach you?


SPEAKER 3: Dan Katz

Yeah, well, look, I think people need to take a big, you know,

Take the Big Leap and go after the big idea.

I think it can be scary at first, but you know, there's only got one life to live, I guess, and make a big impact.

So I encourage people to try entrepreneurship and go take the big leap.

And especially in climate tech and sustainability, I think that's really the key area.

And that's where, and frankly, that's where VCs are still investing dollars today, too.

So I think that's really

It's a good space to be in.

People can definitely reach us at our website, orbitalsidekick.com.

We've got some positions open as well.

Always looking for smart, creative people to join our team.


SPEAKER 2: Silas Mähner

Awesome.

Very good.

It's been a pleasure to have you on, Dan.

It's really, really fascinating.

I love the stories and definitely going to continue to follow along what you guys are working on.


SPEAKER 3: Dan Katz

Great.

Well, thanks.

It's been a pleasure.


Intro to Dan
How to Identify Subsurface Minerals
Why he Became an Entrepreneur
PMF & MVP
GTM & Raising
Watching Their Launch
Challenges
Talent
Take the Leap