Audio & Transcript

Welcome to the Superconnector podcast. I am Matt Joseph, your host. Today, we're going to be jumping into the world of industrials startups. So what are industrials? That's things like manufacturing, robotics, and aerospace. These are the industries that are really changing the way that the world moves.

So I think it's just fascinating. We're going to do 8 of these things and see what we got.

So first up, Navier AI, real time CFD simulations. Their simulations make CFD a thousand times faster with our machine learning based solvers. Well, that's a mouthful, so let's just break each piece down.

Firstly, the name.

Navier is a reference to Navier Stokes.

That's an equation that helps you solve fluid dynamics. So it signals a little bit what direction the company is going in.

CFD is computational fluid dynamics. The way to think about that is if you're building a spaceship or a plane or a boat, when you're in the design phase, you want to know how your designs are going to work against wind and water.

With computational fluid dynamics, it lets you simulate how your designs are going to work in the real world before you sink a bunch of money into production.

Okay. So Navier AI was founded by Cameron and Evan, former SpaceX rocket scientists with experience building software, hardware, and AI at the world's leading companies.

So we have a really strong team here. Good to note that they have experience building this stuff. They're definitely building it for themselves. So I think that's actually really helpful.

The problem, engineering simulation software is broken, too complex, the simulations are too slow, and you repeat mistakes with them.

Every time an engineer runs a simulation on wing, they start from scratch, ignoring the wealth of data from thousands of past simulations.

Well, that tells you pretty much what's going on here. So when you're actually trying to do computational fluid dynamics, it takes way too long. So you just don't even bother to do it.

You just go ahead and build the prototype that you were planning on building instead of actually simulating it. They're saying that people are actually going to start using computational fluid dynamics if their system comes into existence. I think that's a good base.

So they have a demo here of how this actually looks. This looks like it's coming straight out of the Navier AI system. Tells you a little bit about what you would get if you were using it.

Let's learn about the team. Cameron and Evan are aerospace engineers, first joining forces nearly a decade ago to start a liquid rocket propulsion organization at UC San Diego.

Together, they foster innovation against hardware and software at the leading companies such as SpaceX, Tesla, and a host of others.

The context around scale for this industry, which is the industry of computational fluid dynamics, it's worth a few billion dollars today, but it's growing really fast. Engineering simulation software is a much broader industry. There's a lot of companies that do it. They're going after CFD specifically a small but fast growing segment. I like it. I think it's a smart idea. The number one strength for this is the team.

You've got a pair of rocket scientists who have worked at great companies who are building a product that they themselves needed. That's always a great starting point for a new business. So you've got to love the team.

Second strength, they're in a niche, which is fairly insulated from competition. It's going to be hard for someone to come along and say, They want to build something that's competitive with this. You basically have to have the experience of building in these environments for these types of customers, which are engineers building very complex stuff. So they're a bit insulated from competition. And the third is I like the market.

I mean, this is a small, but fast growing area within engineering simulation software. So they got a market, which has a lot of room for upside and growth.

Now to the risks. The first one is execution risk.

If their simulations don't actually work for some reason or go wrong, it could be really, really expensive for their customers because once they start prototyping these things, You're spending a lot of money building these designs out.

The second risk is around selling.

So I've seen this happen a few times where you have guys who are just deep engineers who don't want to sell.

And this is not the kind of product that's going to sell itself. They're going to have to go out to a bunch of engineers and they're going to have to sell them. These guys probably aren't going to want to adopt new stuff, right?

Like they're going to have to make a sale. I don't know if these guys can sell or not, Overall, I really like what they're doing. I mean, you've got a great team. They're working on this deep niche that they understand well. I think they've got a great shot to succeed.

Up next Pivot Robots. Automating high mix manufacturing with AI. Pivot robots build software to tackle the next frontier of manufacturing automation. Sounds pretty interesting. So they've got a GIF right out of the gate, which shows you what their product is doing.

Gives you a sense of what you're getting into. You have a robotic arm, which is Picking things up, putting them into the production line and then moving them along. we are ex-Google and meta robotics engineers that are using foundation vision models to solve the riddle of high mix to redefine American manufacturing.

The problem. U S manufacturing is making a comeback for the first time since the 1970s. But there's a problem. Nobody is filling these jobs. Decades of decline and entire generations shying away from manufacturing jobs have left the industry facing an expected 2. 4 million jobs going unfilled by 2030. Well, that is a lot of jobs, the obvious solution is to use robots, but 75% of all US manufacturers are effectively unable to use traditional robotic automation due to their high mix production.

So high mix manufacturing is basically using a factory space to produce a lot of different types of products and parts. instead of just having a factory that's focused on one product line on one organization, you're actually manufacturing a bunch of different stuff, and that means that your facility needs to be really versatile.

So what they're saying is in these versatile facilities you kind of need to have smart robots that are able to do a lot of different stuff.

If america is unable to capitalize on the current manufacturing and ai boom, we will lose out on one trillion dollars per year in opportunity cost And the chance to strengthen our weakened industrial base.

I don't know what the math is on that But i'm going to take their word that there's a trillion dollar a year opportunity cost here.

The first strength is the product.

They've built something here, which is pretty cool. Robots that can learn, feel like a wave of the future. I think it's differentiated. I think it's got a good shot to succeed.

Second strength is the team.

These guys have worked at some great companies. They've known each other for a long time. I think they have the stuff it takes to actually go ahead and execute on this.

The third strength is the traction.

They got a large cast iron foundry. It's going to use this and roll it out 10 of these systems. You know that they're on the right track. Now, it's still nascent, hard to tell exactly how that pilot's gonna play out, but I think that's a great starting point.

First risk I see is production. It's gonna be hard to produce these robots.

Anytime you're building out technology like this where you're gonna have to custom design, custom develop them, There's going to be some risk in building it.

It's also not clear whether these factories can take these kinds of robots into production yet. Maybe they can, they're going to have to see pretty good ROI on these pilots for more factories to want to adopt it. So we'll see how that plays out.

The second risk I see is the way that they're wading into politics here.

I don't think that they need to make political arguments to make the business compelling, but they seem to be doing that. when they start comparing their system to workers and the loss of jobs, I think they're wading in a territory which could actually hurt them more than it helps them.

They just need a product, which these factories love, and they need to focus on how much the factories love them and how much the workers love them. You need the workers to embrace this. You don't want them feeling like this system is coming out and taking work away from them.

But overall, I like the business. I think it's a good one. Moving on.

Adagy Robotics rescuing robots. A 24 7 remote intervention service for your robots. Well, now that is pretty interesting.

A farmer who has just spent 100, 000 on an autonomous tractor doesn't want to stop work to tell the robot, that's not a fence, every four hours. It's painful for robotics companies. They want to sell robots that work, but it takes years of R& D to get to 99. 999 percent reliability. That's a lot of reliability. Robotics companies are used to getting angry calls from customers, or worse, selling a robot that collects dust because it's too unreliable.

Essentially what these guys are doing is something that tech companies have done for a long time, which is offer customer support.

But what Adagy is saying is, Hey, we'll take care of some of that customer support for you. We will be the ones to be out in the field fixing the broken autonomous robot. You don't have to do that yourselves.

When your robot fails, it can call out to Adagy over our API. Our trained operators will take over and drive your robot back to a stable state and then resume autonomous operation.

With adagy customers won't even notice that a robot's failed. But robotics companies will be able to learn from the data collected during those failures.

So the data piece of this is actually pretty important. Adagy is going to be collecting data about how these robots fail. And then the companies can actually use that data to improve the robots remotely.

So they don't actually have to be out in the field with the robots. They get all the data saying exactly what happened. They can go back and fix their algorithms so that it doesn't do the same stuff over and over again.

So let's meet the founders. We've got a great picture of them laying on the floor in front of a robot. So Ros and Kathleen met at Boston Dynamics, where they worked on the Spot robot. At Boston Dynamics, Ros engineered Spot's arm and gripper. Kathleen went on to work at Tesla developing an end to end machine learning approach for Tesla's humanoids and hands. So you've got a team that has really gone deep in this. I'm going to play this video for you real quick of spot.

This is some pretty cool technology. So spot basically was this robot dog and it did all kinds of stuff.

They had a lot of flashy videos, but the technology was pretty cool. Now did it reach mass scale? No, but this is one of the coolest innovations in robotics in a really long time. So, you know, this team has some good experience working on this stuff.

The first strength is you got a really experienced team here.

I mean, these guys have worked at Boston Dynamics and Tesla building robots. They've seen a thing or two about robots failing. And they're going to have some good experience here that allows them to actually execute this service.

The second strength is that they've got a pretty good data moat here.

So they're collecting data on these robots on how these robots are performing. And they're reading this back to the companies who they work with. The more data that Adagy collects about robots failing, the better that their service is going to be over time, which means it will be harder to ultimately replace them with some other service. Even if the manufacturers themselves want to offer this to their customers, it's going to be difficult because Adagy is going to have all the experience on the ground of fixing these robots.

And the third strength is that they're sitting on the back of an incredible trend, which is autonomous robots spreading all over the world.

We're going to start seeing autonomous robots everywhere. And Adagy basically is going to be sitting on the back of that trend saying, Hey, when these robots break down, we are the system of record to take care of them.

So as far as the risks go, the number one risk is execution based.

If Adagy's service does not actually fix these robots and they have to call up the manufacturer to come and fix them, then they're in a world of hurt. The business doesn't work. Do they have enough information about different types of robots to be able to offer this support?

That's the real question. So it's well and good to know when the robot breaks down. The robot sends its API call to Adagy, but if Adagy can't actually get the thing up and running, then the whole business is moot. It defeats the purpose.

But overall, I love this team. They've got great experience. They've worked on some really cool technologies before. I wouldn't bet against them.

Up next. Yondu, building voice control for mobile robots. Robotic foundation models for truly intelligent control.

Robots have limited ability to interact with humans, and it's difficult to use them. As it is, we either need developers to create custom software or skilled operators to control robots, In order to carry out specific tasks. But what if we could just tell a robot what to do and it actually listened.

With this level of control, we introduce and enable robotic applications in a variety of industries. Drones for firefighters and photographers. Robot dogs for construction and companionship. Hospitality bots in hospitals and homes. And we have a demo here. Let's play this.

Hi, Our company is called Yondu.

We're about to do a demonstration of some of the capabilities of our voice controlled drone.

Take off fly up 0. 5 meters. turn around and follow the guy wearing the orange hoodie. Alright,

so here you're about to see the drone follow just given natural language instructions.

That's pretty cool technology. So that was a demo for law enforcement. You could have a drone follow somebody who is trying to get away. The drone would be able to do what you want just by speaking to it. That's pretty cool.

So the team, the founders met while studying at MIT and have been involved in various escapades throughout the years from hacking hijinks to grueling late night projects, the two have done it all. And we have a photo of them on a subway with a mattress. Now that might be more impressive than anything that they've actually done in building robots.

That's pretty cool.

So Michael built an open source bipedal robot and an autonomous train track cleaner. Tahmid studied computer science and aero astro at MIT and was a graduate student researching uncertainty quantification for deep learning. P. S. Can someone start a same day delivery company? And that is in reference to their mattress on the subway.

This is clearly a young team. They don't have a lot of experience working in big companies, but the things that they've done are pretty impressive. They went to MIT, an amazing school, and they both worked on the kinds of technology that they're going to be building.

So as far as the strengths go, the first one is the market.

It's not hard to imagine how this technology ends up in quite literally every kind of robot. I mean, I can't think of a single case where it wouldn't be helpful for a robot to talk to a person, like for a person to be able to tell a robot to do something, even if the robot doesn't necessarily react to it for security or safety reasons or whatever, you really would benefit from having robots that can talk to people because people are going to be the ones who are using them.

And it's not going to be the engineers that built them. It's just going to be regular people out in the world. So having robots, being able to talk to people. Feels like a pretty important application.

The second strength I actually think is the team.

They're young and hungry. They have great pedigree and background.

I think they've got a great shot to do it. And they don't take themselves too seriously. I mean, in their launch, they put up a photo of themselves hanging out in a subway with a mattress so that tells you everything you need to know about this team.

The third thing I like is that they're going after really practical applications.

I mean, they say drones for firefighters and photographers and robot dogs for construction and companionship. I mean, these are pretty clear applications that they're going after. They seem to have built some prototypes in that direction.

So let's get to the big risk here, which I think is just commercialization.

You have founders who don't have a lot of experience working in commercial settings. It's one thing to be a student working on this as a project. It's entirely different to then go to people and say, pay me real money to do this.

So sometimes people can make the jump. Sometimes they can't. That's a risk that these guys are going to have to overcome in order for the business to succeed.

Overall, I really like it. I think they're onto something pretty cool. They've got a great shot to build something big here.

Up next Vista space. Structural batteries for high performance spacecraft. Our batteries let spacecraft have 2x the energy capacity or save 15 30 percent in volume. Now that is interesting.

Vista Space builds Tesla inspired structural batteries to increase the satellite's energy capacity without increasing their size. The founders worked at SpaceX, Rocket Lab, and NASA.

The problem, today's spacecraft power systems are not capable enough to support both the current and next generation mission concepts, leading satellite manufacturers to painful trade offs, limiting additional hardware or increasing system size to get more power.

With reduced capabilities, companies lose their technological advantage. With increased size, manufacturing costs are higher, risk of delays is greater, and go to market is slower due to fewer spacecraft launches. These trade offs are fundamental limitations of spacecraft design and space economics.

What these guys are saying is that satellites need more power to move to their next generation than they can get right now.

But as they add power, they have to increase the size of it, which then changes the way the whole thing works. So you need batteries which don't take up more space, and that's essentially what they're trying to offer.

Traditional spacecraft walls are purely structural, serving little functional purpose after launch while occupying valuable space. Our Voltaris 1 module replaces these walls, providing structural support and energy storage simultaneously. This allows satellite manufacturers to double their energy capacity without increasing size or gain 15 30 percent more useful volume at the same power budget.

And we have a Image here where they show you exactly how this works.

Key features: inspired by structural batteries in EV's like the Tesla model Y and cyber truck, plug and play with any chassis size, bolting onto the chassis in place of the aluminum walls, launching to space in February 2025, and it's priced in the middle of the market for space batteries.

That's all really great. Specifically that they are launching in 2025. That tells me they have some customers. They know how to get this thing into market.

Let's talk about the team.

Maxim and Petar met at SpaceX working on Starlink and Starship respectively and bonded over discussing opportunities for satellite design improvements.

You can imagine that water cooler conversation. These two guys talking about how to improve satellites. Maxim and Chaitanya met at a conference for rising new space leaders and have stayed in touch ever since.

So these guys worked at SpaceX, they worked at NASA and they helped build a multi billion dollar Gigafactory for batteries in Illinois. That is a great background.

And we got a photo of them hanging out, looking very serious and intense. I guess that's what you need for space.

So the strengths, number one, the team,

these guys couldn't have better resumes for doing what they're attempting to do. They were working on this problem at the best companies in the world. They have shown evidence that they can execute on this. Gotta love the team.

Second thing is the traction.

They're about to shoot this thing into space next year. That's great. That means they've already built it. They have some folks who are willing to try it out. Very difficult to do in the space they're in, but they've used their connections and relationships to make it happen. That's awesome.

The third thing is it's just very innovative.

They're taking this idea from Tesla and SpaceX that you can use the walls of the satellite to become batteries themselves. So you can increase the power without changing the design? That's pretty impressive.

So it's a cool piece of technology. I wonder why it is that folks haven't done this yet. But the fact they haven't done it, that's not Vista Space's problem. They're going to take advantage of it and build a new market here.

The biggest risk here is about whether or not this actually works.

They haven't put it up into space yet, so we don't know if it can actually provide the power benefits that they say it can. Can it actually work with a lot of different types of satellites? Not quite clear yet. They basically need to execute it and prove that it's going to work. But if you're going to bet on one team to do it, would be the guys to do it.

Up next, Astro Mechanica. New jet engines for the new jet age. Now that sounds pretty interesting. New jet engines. Astro Mechanica has invented a new kind of jet engine, the electric adaptive engine. Unlike any existing engine, it's efficient at every speed.

Because it's efficient at every speed, it can be used in new and different ways. It can launch payloads to orbit three times cheaper than an all rocket system or enable a passenger aircraft three times faster than an airline.

If they can cut the costs of payloads to space by 3x, some of these payloads are ridiculously expensive.

We're talking like over a hundred million dollars for some of these space launches. This is a very, very compelling piece of technology here.

Jet aircraft stopped improving in the 1970s. Jet aircraft have powered much of the global economy through trade and commerce since the advent of the jet age. Yet the technology has not changed foundationally in over 40 years. Modern commercial jets are still using, more or less, the same airframes that were originally designed in the 1970s.

The first Boeing 737 flew in April 1967 and the first Airbus A300 flew in October 1972.

Well, we know that it works, right? Like It's not like train tracks have fundamentally changed from the time that they were designed in the 1700s, right? Like still talking about the same technology here all these years later. Maybe that's an indictment of the technology or maybe that's just a sign that the technology works well. But I see their point that innovation in these areas ought not to stop just because something is working. And they actually might have something here that's pretty cool so I don't hold that against them.

And we've got a GIF of their engine. I like that. That's pretty cool. Astro Mechanica has invented a new type of jet engine that is efficient at every speed. We've achieved this by using electric motors to drive the compressor, allowing it to spin at variable speeds and adapt to its airspeed and combustion cycle.

So this is actually a really important thing to note here.

The idea here is that engines, as you change the speeds, change in efficiency. And what they're saying is that instead of having an engine, which gets less efficient as it gets faster, that they can maintain the efficiency, no matter what the speed is. So that would be a pretty big innovation if possible.

Now for the traction, we built our proof of concept engine in just two months, something that would take the typical aerospace company a year to build. We're now finishing up our first flight engine in just three months using five hundred thousand dollars of off the shelf hardware. The next step is to build an airframe over the next six to eight months and to use that engine.

We'll then put it all together and demonstrate supersonic flight in 2025. And then they have some photos of what they built.

I need to touch on the idea that they're going to be demonstrating supersonic flight in 2025.

One of the companies that went through YC around the same time that I went through YC was called Boom. And Boom essentially is building supersonic flight. Now this was back in 2016 that they went through YC. They just announced their first supersonic flight in 2024.

It costs well over 100 million for them to get to that point. This is not something you could do quickly. I know these guys are saying they're going to do supersonic flight next year. They're trying to sell that to investors. I have serious doubts about whether they're going to accomplish that in a one year timeframe.

If they do, they deserve any amount of money that they can get. But the issues here are not purely about building the thing. It's also about regulation. It's about getting approval from the FAA. There's a lot of things that you have to go through before you're actually able to commercialize supersonic flight and they have to follow the steps.

But they do have this master plan, which very reminiscent of Elon Musk's master plan for Tesla. Tokyo to SF in four hours. Phase 1, de-risk technology for passenger aircraft certification through applications like Space Launch. Phase 2, establish manufacturing and operational capacity to offer private flights. Phase 3, scale operational capacity and make supersonic flights affordable.

Well, I like that plan. I mean, it does remind me of what Elon had said about Tesla's master plan all those years back, which ultimately has come to fruition. So, I like that these guys have come up with a really simple way to describe what they're trying to do.

I still have doubts about their ability to get to supersonic flight in less than a year from now, but I believe that they believe that they can do

Now one of the concerns I have here is they seem to be straddling the line between wanting this to be used for supersonic flight and wanting to be used for space launch.

The founders seem to address this here. Why are we starting with space launch? Because it's easier cheaper and a regulatory hack to supersonic passenger travel. So what they're basically saying is that instead of launching spaceships on the ground, you can launch them from the air using their technology. And that will cut the cost by 3x. That's the general plan here.

So strengths, the first thing I absolutely love the ambition here.

These guys are basically saying we have the first type of engine like this that's ever been built.

And. That is a potential game changer that building new engines isn't something that happens very often. It's generally been the domain of companies like Boeing and Airbus, these giant behemoths that have been around forever. If some small startup can come along and do it with 500, 000, that's cool. And it's ambitious for them to want to get in the game.

There's been a lot of companies that have tried to do that and failed. So I love the ambition here.

The second thing I really like about this, Is that these guys move fast. They're going at a breakneck pace. They built this thing in three months. They're planning to fly supersonic flights by next year.

Now, can they do it? I have doubts about that, but at the same time, I love that they have shown that they can build things quickly. That's a sign of future execution. Really well done on that.

Now there's a few risks here as well. The first is execution based.

Does this engine actually work? We've never seen this thing in flight. There is not an airliner in the world that's going to sign up to use this thing unless they know that it works 100 percent of the time.

These guys have to prove that and it will take a very long time for them to prove that. They're saying that space launch is gonna be a way to get around some of that but I have my doubts. I think they have to prove that this thing is going to work with jets before anyone is going to be willing to actually implement it.

Now, can they get pre orders? That was what Boom ended up doing. They got a bunch of pre orders. That showed the viability or the demand for it. But these guys are going to have to do something similar. If they can get there with Space Launch, then I think they're on to something.

There's also a risk here around the vision.

So I've been in startups where when you set unrealistic goals about what's capable, that it ends up killing the team. When you don't meet the goals that you set, it demoralizes your teammates. So if these guys don't actually get to supersonic flight in 2025, and that is the rallying cry internally, you might start seeing churn. You might start seeing people saying, well, I don't want to be a part of this because it's clear that it doesn't work. Right? And your expectations are really important. They might be setting expectations in a way that actually hurts the team.

But overall, I love the ambition. I love the pace that they're going at. I hope that they make this work because I want to get from Tokyo to SF in four hours, too.

Up next, Elodin, Continuous Integration and Continuous Deployment for Aerospace.

Elodin helps aerospace engineers rapidly design, test, and simulate control systems. For example, an engineer could use our Python physics toolkit, Which automatically optimizes physical computations for GPU computing to test a new satellite control system in minutes instead of hours.

So that's quite a mouthful here, but the thing to know about continuous integration, continuous deployment is that it's very popular in the software world. So what these guys are basically saying is they're going to take this concept of testing and iteration from the world of software and we're going to apply it to aerospace as well. It's not unlike what jeff bezos said he wanted to do with blue origin.

and the problem with, uh, doing entrepreneurial things in space right now is that first step, it's getting off Earth, it's just way too expensive, and it'll always be too expensive as long as we're throwing the hardware away in the ocean every time we use it, uh, and so that's what we're trying to do. We want to make that, if I could be 80 years old, and actually it's very inspiring to see these kids at Ricebeck Aviation High because, um, they're the generation that if we can make that infrastructure step, provide that low cost access to space, they will figure out how to creatively use it. They will be the generation that does the equivalent of what I've witnessed on the internet.

He wanted to make it easier for the next generation of entrepreneurs to build space companies by abstracting away some of the elements of actually going to space by building the Manufacturing capacity so that you can actually have systems in space.

These guys are basically saying, we're going to take this concept that worked really well in the world of software and we're gonna apply it to aerospace so people can build aerospace systems faster.

So let's talk about the team then we've got five founders, Dan, Sasha, Andre, Tom, and Akil drawing from roles at Astro forge, Google, Salesforce, spatial, and several startups, we discovered the rapid iteration in cloud software missing in the field of aerospace. So we were compelled to make the development experience better.

Hoof. So you've got five founders that is very rare for a YC startup to have five founders. The reason that it's problematic when you have five founders is that the equity split is so significant early on that the upside ends up being a lot less for those founders at the point where they really start raising money.

If you have two founders, you're going to split the equity of the company two ways. Maybe everybody gets 50%. Sometimes people have a different split 60, 40, 70, 30, but generally speaking, these end up looking close to 50, 50 deals. When you have five founders, you're now at 20 percent per founder in the best case scenario.

If the CEO gets a little bit more, you might have some of these founders who are down at 10%. And at 10%, every time you raise money, you're going to get diluted. So, there's a bit of a challenge here, just out of the gate, about the ownership interest, which might disincentivize some of these teammates from working the way that they Should work in a startup.

So the broad claim here is that it's really difficult to do testing now they're basically saying that all the testing systems out there are no good. They even call this out specifically. They say you can agonize over setting up a complex simulation using MATLAB, Gazebo, or something homegrown.

So there's actually a lot more competitors than that in the space that they're in. But I see the point that they're making. They're basically saying that these systems are slow, they're complicated, and it takes a long time to get it set up. What they're going to do is basically do the whole thing for you.

That's essentially what they're saying. You want to test your autonomous drone? We will build the Monte Carlo simulation for you.

Monte Carlo testing is when you run a simulation multiple times with randomized initial conditions. For example, you could run your simulation with randomized wind speeds. We let you run hundreds of thousands of simulations simultaneously right from the comfort of your laptop.

And so they say Elodin has three components. They have a Python physics library, a Monte Carlo cloud runner, and a 3D viewer, which they have a little demo of here. It looks like they have planets circling around here.

I don't know how that relates to building a drone, but it still looks pretty cool.

So let's get to the strengths. Firstly, I really like how they're taking a concept in continuous integration, continuous deployment from the software world into the hardware world.

I don't think that can work in every case. But in this case, a lot of these companies are going to have software engineers on their team who understand that idea so when they say that to them, it's going to ring true as something that's valuable. So I think it's actually a pretty smart idea for them to take that concept and reapply it in this industry.

The second thing I like is that their product is really easy to use.

I mean, you could run this thing from your laptop. Like I could run this thing right now. I mean, that's awesome. It's not something that requires a lot of implementation. That means that they can probably get up and running, get some pilots really quickly. I love that as a base.

Now, the first risk I see is about the team.

Some of them seem to have some space experience, but you got five founders so you have a weird equity split there. And it's not clear that they all have the right type of experience.

I mean, I see some good companies here. I didn't see any particularly notable space companies, so they might be a little bit out of their depth when it comes to actually building and selling to space companies. The second risk here is competition.

These guys are in a really, really crowded space. There's a lot of competitors. I mean, I counted at least eight competitors from my research. They called out a few of them in their pitch, but just for full context here, I've got gazebo, Ansys, MATLAB and Simulink, Ross, AirSim and Microsoft Flight Simulator, Dassault Systems, unity and Unreal Engine, which is the gaming engine even you can use to do this. So there are a ton of competitors that are in this space. They're going to have to figure out a way to differentiate themselves. They're saying, hey, this is easy to use, it's cheaper. I don't know if that will actually work.

But overall, I like it. I mean, I think they're going after a pretty interesting problem. If they can figure it out, they'll have a nice big business. I hope they are successful.

Up next, Basalt Tech. Windows for spacecraft. We're building the world's first satellite operating system. Now that is very ambitious. Let's jump into this. There are over 65, 000 satellites licensed to be launched by 2030.

That is a big number. That's over a hundred billion dollars of assets whose value comes from the bytes and data that they send down. Right now, that data pipeline includes email, whiteboards and Excel. Dispatch is here to change that and bring autonomy into orbit for every mission.

So what these guys are basically saying is they're going to build an operating system that runs on top of Tens of thousands of satellites.

These satellites today don't talk to each other. There's no unified system and that means that if you're building a satellite, you have to account for all the other satellites yourself.

So we've got a visualization here of active and defunct satellites around Earth. I mean, this is wild.

It looks almost like the Earth is surrounded by dust particles. I mean, it's like an absolute mess of satellites.

So they're saying that because of all these satellites being out in space that these satellites have to talk to each other. If you can't talk to other satellites, then it's gonna be very difficult to navigate when you're up in space. And they're gonna offer a system that allows you to do that.

Right now, there is no solution for space companies or government agencies other than to take on massive in house development or scale up their operations staff. This is a story we've heard over and over talking to flight directors and CEOs. And we've got a nice picture of them hanging out at the National University of Singapore.

So let's learn about some of the partnerships that they've made here. MIT, University of Toronto, Canada, National University of Singapore, our house university in Denmark.

So it's pretty clear what they're doing here. They're basically partnering with the space programs at some distinguished universities, and they're going to use that to get into more commercial applications. Basically prove their chops by doing projects in universities and then have their system deployed with commercial contracts afterwards.

And they actually call out the insight behind that strategy. They say, just a handful of academic space programs function as the source of almost all engineering talent in the space industry. These collaborations are invaluable for our journey towards product market fit and provide a platform to gain flight heritage for Basalt.

Now let's learn about the team. In 2020, Alex hired a 17 year old max to fix broken satellite radios in the back shed of a Los Angeles dentistry. Now that is quite a story. I don't know what these guys were doing in a dentist shed, but apparently they were cooking up a space company. That's hilarious.

Over the next few months, the duo would assemble a crack team of engineers in L. A. And Cambridge to bring MIT's CubeSat program back to life. Six months later, the completed satellite was being integrated into the rocket for launch.

That's cool. And I like how he described his team as a crack team of engineers.

These guys were hanging out in a shed. just love the way that they told that story.

--The first thing I like here is the ambition.

To invoke the name windows when talking about anything is a bold name to invoke. But in this case, I think it actually makes sense. It's an operating system for satellites. They're saying that all satellites can connect to it, and then they'll be able to communicate autonomously and you'll be able to do it much cheaper.

So if they're able to pull that off, that would be very valuable. It's like they said, a hundred billion dollars of satellites. They're going to want to control those things. It's going to be something that the companies who make them and use them want to have in place.

The second thing I really like is their go to market strategy.

I mean, they're going to universities as a wedge to get into these companies. And when they go to the actual companies, they're going to go to SpaceX and be like, yeah, we worked with MIT. And half the guys, they're gonna be like, yeah, we went to MIT. So I think it's actually really smart to do these university partnerships. It's a nice little hack to get their foot in the door and establish credibility around this system. Very, very smart by them.

But let's get to the risks. Number one. It's not clear to me that these space companies actually want a system that integrates them.

There may be some compelling reason that this hasn't happened yet. Usually when these systems don't get built, there's a reason. It's probably ridiculously expensive. They probably don't want to share information with each other. Many of them are probably comfortable just to say we're going to spend the huge amounts of money to manage this ourselves just so we are not part of some other system that can steal our information or cause problems for our satellites.

So it may be that the competitive dynamics do not support an overarching integrated system without something like major government coordination and intervention. I suspect that's what's going on here and that's an existential risk for this company.

The second risk is actually related to that, and that's a time risk.

I mean, how long is it going to take to get coordination amongst these companies to get them to agree to be a part of this operating system? It might take decades to do that. I mean, that's not a trivial statement. And in the interim, basalt has to find a way to survive. So I am a little bit weary of the market conditions around this.

And I'd want to do a lot more research before getting more involved with a company that's doing this type of technology. However, I absolutely love the ambition and I hope that they could figure it out because that would be a really cool business.

And that is it. We have covered eight very interesting industrial startups from YC's Winter 2024 batch. They're doing some fascinating things, robotics, manufacturing, aerospace. The future here is really bright. I'm excited for it. Thank you for listening. Thank you for watching. And we'll see you again soon.

Watch next