An interview with Michele Messina, COO and co-founder of Leaf Space
Astropreneurs: Please tell us about Leaf Space, its current development status and your role in the company?
Michele Messina: Leaf Space is a high-tech company that offers dedicated services for microsatellites operators. We are developing products and services to simplify access to space for commercial, scientific, and exploratory purposes by tackling the unmet needs of the microsatellites sector.
Currently, we are working on the commercialization of Leaf Line, which will redefine the ground segment by creating the first ever infrastructure-as-a-service network of ground stations fully dedicated to microsatellites. We raised almost US$3m until today, we are working with our first customers since October 2017, and we plan to expand the network until 10-12 operative ground stations within the end of 2018. I’m one of the founders of Leaf Space, together with Jonata Puglia, and Giovanni Pandolfi. As COO, my duties are mostly related to projects management and coordination.
Astropreneurs: How did you come up with the idea and how did you develop the company?
Michele Messina: Our company was born in 2014 when Jonata, Giovanni, and I were studying at Politecnico di Milano. In the previous two years we had founded a student association to build and launch experimental sounding rockets. Working together, we discovered that we were an extremely complementary team and we decided to build a business to work in the space sector. Therefore, we started with a market analysis to find an application in which we could have given an important contribution. At first, we focused our efforts on finding a solution to solve the issues related to satellite launch. But soon we had to deal with the problem related to a far breakeven point, typical of this business, and decided to pivot and start with Leaf Line development. Anyway, we will come back with the rocket soon, I promise!
Astropreneurs: What resources were the most important to get your idea off the ground?
Michele Messina: I think the most important resource for an entrepreneur and in particular for an astropreneur is the determination. To develop a space company is a hard venture, full of risks and pitfalls, so you have to be very strong minded to succeed.
Astropreneurs: What were the main difficulties you experienced so far and how did you overcome them?
Michele Messina: Of course, finding the money you need to start and develop a space business is a critical issue. We worked hard for one year without getting any salary, to save money to develop our first ground station prototype. It was not so easy at that time to balance the time spent in developing our idea and the time needed to get our master degree. We had to invent some magic tricks to obtain the expected results.
Astropreneurs: What advice would you give to someone looking to create a space startup?
Michele Messina: Keep focus on customer needs. It is really important to make sure that what you are planning to deliver to your customers is what they really want from you. The main risk in developing a new space startup is to build cool but useless things.
Don’t hesitate to visit Leaf Space website or to contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org if you liked this interview!
Posted by Paola Belingheri