Dan Berkenstock: Launching into Uncharted Space [Entire Talk] | Summary and Q&A

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March 7, 2013
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Stanford eCorner
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Dan Berkenstock: Launching into Uncharted Space [Entire Talk]

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Summary

In this video, the founders of Skybox Imaging, Dan Berkenstock, Ching-Yu Hu, John Fenwick, and Julian Mann, discuss the journey of building their company. They discuss the challenges they faced, such as raising funds, finding a market, and scaling their culture. They also share the lessons they learned along the way, including the importance of having a clear vision, being scrappy, and building strong relationships. The founders emphasize the need to constantly iterate and adapt in order to succeed in the startup world.

Questions & Answers

Q: What is Skybox Imaging's vision?

Skybox Imaging's vision is to dramatically increase the overall size of the overhead monitoring market by building satellites that can monitor tens or hundreds of thousands of locations on earth on a daily basis.

Q: How does Skybox build its satellites?

Skybox builds satellites that are about the size of a small refrigerator and are built using commercial off-the-shelf electronics, open source software, and other techniques that have made Silicon Valley scalable. They focus on designing low-cost satellites that can provide high-quality images.

Q: What is the benefit of Skybox's satellites producing video as well?

Skybox's satellites not only produce imagery but also high-resolution video from space. This can provide people with better insight into daily activities happening around the world.

Q: How does Skybox differentiate itself from current mapping services like Google Maps?

Skybox aims to provide not just pictures but also data and answers to questions about the images they capture. They want to provide information that can help businesses, governments, and consumers make more efficient and safer decisions.

Q: How did the founders come up with the idea of starting Skybox Imaging?

The idea for Skybox Imaging came about when Dan Berkenstock, a PHD student in aeronautics and astronautics, saw an opportunity to apply the principles of Silicon Valley to the aerospace industry. He gathered a team of talented individuals and started exploring the possibility of building small satellites for overhead monitoring.

Q: What were the initial challenges faced by Skybox Imaging?

One of the initial challenges faced by Skybox was raising funds for their project. They also had to find a market and validate their technology before they could launch their first satellite. Additionally, they had to learn how to navigate the regulatory landscape and build a team with diverse skills.

Q: How did Skybox overcome the challenge of getting real data before launching their first satellite?

To overcome the challenge of getting real data, Skybox created simulated imagery and bought existing satellite imagery to show potential customers what they could expect from their satellites. They even went as far as buying a Learjet and attaching a camera to replicate the type of images they would capture from space.

Q: How did Skybox build its team?

Skybox initially hired their friends from Stanford who had experience in various fields, including space missions and big data companies. As they grew, they focused on hiring people with diverse backgrounds and skills. They also formed partnerships and sought advice from experts in the industry.

Q: How did Skybox maintain transparency and collaboration as the company grew?

Skybox maintained transparency by having regular updates and briefings for the entire team, including sharing board meeting materials with the entire company. They also created a culture of openness and collaboration, where ideas and feedback were encouraged and valued.

Q: What lessons did the founders learn during their journey with Skybox Imaging?

The founders learned the importance of having a clear vision, being scrappy and resourceful, building strong relationships, and constantly iterating and adapting. They also emphasized the need to scale the company's culture as they grew and to focus on hiring people who are passionate about the company's mission.

Takeaways

Skybox Imaging's founders shared their journey of building the company, highlighting the importance of having a clear vision, being resourceful, building strong relationships, and constantly iterating and adapting. They emphasized the need to focus on the near-term path to revenue and to hire people who are passionate about the company's mission. The founders also highlighted the importance of maintaining transparency and collaboration as the company grows and to scale the company's culture. Overall, they emphasized that building a startup is a journey that requires determination and the ability to learn and adapt along the way.

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