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The Kepler team: Photo via Kepler.
The Kepler team: Mark Michael, Stephen Lau, Wen Cheng, Jeffrey Osborne, Mina Mitry. Photo via Kepler.

If humans will one day live and work in outer space, there needs to be a better centralized telecommunications infrastructure — and Kepler Communications wants to help build it.

The six-person Toronto-based startup, currently part of the Techstars Seattle cohort, is developing high data rate and dynamic communications systems for the “new space economy.”

“We created Kepler in 2015 because we believe that we can help our planet by building space infrastructure,” said CEO Mina Mitry said. “Our goal is to enable a space economy.”

Here’s more about the company’s vision, from its website:

To make space networks a reality, our team is pioneering high data rate, low cost, multi-input, multi-output communications technologies in small satellite form factors. By doing away with non-communications components, such as cameras, sensors, and data processing computing, our satellites are able to achieve data rates far in excess of what is possible without a centralized satellite communication infrastructure.

Kepler’s founders met through the aeronautics team at the University of Toronto, where they designed and built drones, rockets, and spacecraft for national and international competitions. They won a combined 15 awards over four years and decided to launch Kepler afterward.

Kepler CEO Mina Mitry.
Kepler CEO Mina Mitry.

We caught up with Mitry for this Startup Spotlight, a regular GeekWire feature.

Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: “Kepler is building the internet in space to enable real-time asset tracking, fresher pictures of our world, and more accurate weather predictions.”

Inspiration hit us when: “There was no specific ‘aha’ moment for our team. We had been involved in the aerospace industry for a while at different jobs and national/international competitions. Two things really came together for us during that time:

  1. Recognizing the increasing number of satellites going up to commercialize space.
  2. Recognizing we had a killer team (after winning 15 awards together) that could play in this industry.

VC, Angel or Bootstrap: “VC, angel and bootstrapping are all great ways to run a company, but different methods work for different founders. From when we started the business, we wanted to be venture-backed because that’s the type of company we want to have.”

Our ‘secret sauce’ is: “People. Putting together the right team has made our company what it is today. They’re the ones that lead to the patents, and the strategy to defend our business long term. I can’t give enough credit to our team who has the grit to drive the business no matter what things look like today.”

KeplerFinalThe smartest move we’ve made so far: “Saying no to the wrong type of money and coming to Seattle from Toronto for Techstars. The difference for our company has been incredible, especially because of the space community within Seattle. We’ve had the opportunity to engage with key mentors and customers that will drastically change the shape of our business.”

The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: “Assuming everyone is just as excited and passionate about the company as we are. Every person is unique and needs your story to be told in a way that resonates with them. We’ve quickly calibrated to the needs of the outside world, but it was a difficult learning process.”

Would you rather have Gates, Zuckerberg or Bezos in your corner: “Bezos, because he firmly believes in our version of the world where space is just another destination to visit just like New York or San Francisco.”

Our favorite team-building activity is: “Sunday night family dinner. We live in a startup house and every Sunday night one team member will cook a meal for the entire team. We get to know each other better plus share our high and lows of the week.”

The biggest thing we look for when hiring is: “We firmly believe in hiring the personality and teaching the skill, so the passion for our mission is one of the most important indicators of a great teammate. They also have to adapt well to our company culture.”

What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: “Write awesome emails, run awesome meetings, and always be open minded — never let pride get in the way of a good decision. If you can master these three things, you can build a great company.”

Editor’s note: GeekWire is featuring each of the companies participating in Techstars Seattle’s class of 2016 in the lead up to Demo Day on May 18.

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