Is WeWork the real deal?

Is WeWork the real deal?

The way our generation is living is changing. It stands to reason that our needs as individuals are also shifting. However, we resist acknowledging that change is affecting more than just our news consumption habits.

One of those spaces that we refuse to recognize is the transformation of work. The most significant testimony of this shift is the rise of coworking spaces. And within that movement, one brand outshines the rest, WeWork. With a 4.5 billion dollars war chest and a 20 billion dollar valuation, it’s becoming hard to ignore.

Number of coworking spaces worldwide from 2005 to 2018 – Statista

For many, though, WeWork remains a mistake, or a fluke and coworking is just another millennial fad. Detractors are quick to point out that WeWork is an over-glorified Regus. A reseller of office space catered to the hipster echelons of tech society. This speed of judgment is preventing us from understanding why WeWork matters.

The company started as a coworking space but limiting its scope to that is myopic. Many journalists and professionals, though, are quick to dismiss WeWork’s innovative approach.

“WeWork’s coworking spaces give entrepreneurs space to work, and come equipped with amenities like free beer, stocked fridges, and Foosball tables.”

How WeWork became the most valuable startup in New York City

Let’s start with the obvious. WeWork isn’t only about space. If it were, then it wouldn’t have become one of the fastest growing coworking spaces in the world. The devil lies in the details.

Yes, the organization sells space, but not just any space. It acts as a broker between landlords that need to fill their space and companies that are looking for affordable office rents.

Most coworking companies pick any affordable space that allows them to offer cheap rent. This isn’t the case with WeWork. There is a careful study around where and what to rent. This alignment with the space providers allows them to negotiate what others can’t. 

Restricting WeWork’s value to real estate though is still too narrow. The company has been focusing on building community since day one. It’s not about the office; it’s about the sense of belonging. The attention to their tenant’s culture is one of the linchpins of WeWork’s success.

For all the talk about the importance of corporate culture, few organizations achieve healthy ones. In true cargo cult fashion, most companies try to mimic the fancy designs they see elsewhere. Plastering the office with motivational quotes, dropping bean bags or adding ping pong tables won’t do the trick.

WeWork’s attention to community and the fostering of an outstanding culture is unique. As sound designers, they’ve taken a human-centric approach and built their offerings around them.

An excellent example of this is their floor design and architecture. Every corner, every room, every desk is accounted for. They analyze from foot traffic to room occupancy. Nothing is random. They know that building a comfortable environment is critical for culture.

They get things wrong too. This isn’t an ode to the wonders of WeWork either. Growth, especially the one WeWork is undergoing, tends to derail specific details in favor of scale. But overall, their global footprint, design, and attention to certain important aspects of the decentralized office are winning the day.

Maybe one of the most undervalued aspects of the company is this affinity with the rise of the decentralized office. They listen, analyze and react to the new needs emerging from it. They understand the way work is changing, and they’re offering their own Amazon Web Services for the new workers.

It’s tempting to talk about entrepreneurs and startup employees as the new workers. It’s was equally attractive to think that only young people would use and want an iPhone. RIM learned their lesson. Many realtors, coworking owners, and companies are learning their lesson too.

New workers are everywhere. They’re not circumscribed to entrepreneurs. Remote, decentralized professionals are cropping everywhere. Technology is making “working at the local office” a thing of the past. Global competition is forcing companies to slim down their core employees and relay on vertical independent workers. These professionals work globally, require mobility and non-binding contracts. WeWork understands this better than anyone and is happy to oblige.

Owning the value chain

But the most impressive aspect of the company isn’t the coworking; it’s culture, or it’s their understanding of the future of work. The most remarkable point is the vertical integration of their value chain. WeWork isn’t a coworking company; it’s a data startup.

The Aleph Report

The company deploys an extensive IoT network in its buildings. Not only they track foot traffic or room occupancy, but they also analyze how people use their workspaces when they come and go, etc.

Construction Tech

Their data team then crunches these numbers to inform the lower end of their value chain. They’re capable of scouting and vetting their locations semi-automatically. Not only that, they are capable of locking it in and put it into production at tremendous speeds.

“Notably, the company can add space so quickly due to its construction chops and operational efficiency. After a location has been scouted and vetted, and a lease or co-management agreement is in place, the company can accept tenants in as few as 4 months, and on average does so within 9 months.”

WeWork’s $20 Billion Dream

The same information is pushed to their office design process, so they know exactly what to build and how. The construction is greatly enhanced by the use of data, 3D scanning of the space and the use of Building Information Models (BIM). The organization has invested heavily in this space, acquiring two startups to speed up the automation of this first phases.

While apparently this might not be important, their operational improvements regarding speed, stock, and redesigns, allows them to lower their cost of operation and increase their competitiveness beyond many other players. Its end-to-end data approach is unique and rarely seen in the Real Estate industry. They’re applying a startup mentality to the space, not a Real Estate one, hence their valuation.

Upstream integration

But their value chain integration doesn’t only apply to the lower part of the chain, but the upper too. The company is pushing hard beyond the coworking space. One of their early moves was to set up their service platform, WeWork Store. It’s their App Store version for the WeWork family. More locations, more customers. The more substantial their customer base, the better deals and offerings they can give at their store. The better deals they offer, the more customers they attract. Thus building a powerful virtuous cycle that speaks of their aggregation power.

The store was the first natural step. Let’s equip our residents with better tools to do their job. What else does someone need to be happy at work? Easy, personal growth. WeWork is investing heavily in education for their members. They recently bought FlatIron School, a world-class coding academy, and partnered up with 2U, an online education platform. Want to change careers? The company will give you the tools to do it from your office space. Are you under a crushing debt from school? Don’t worry, WeWork has your back with their partnership with SoFi.

The message is clear. Come to WeWork, work with us, and we can help you grow and develop your career path. Aligned with that is their offering of startup accelerator-like services under WeLabs.

There are four things someone needs to be happy at work. A great space (check), access to useful tools (check), education (check) and inspiration from others (check).

The company is doubling down on their vision of what work should look like. They’re providing all the elements that Millennials value from their job.

Amazon Web Service style horizontal integration

WeWork though operates with plenty of risks. Their business model isn’t disruptive, as it’s the same play as Regus. They make money on the arbitrage between what they pay the landlords and what they charge their tenants (2x).

The company has been hard at work to mitigate their risk. One of their best plays has been what they call ‘Power By We.’ It’s their real-estate as a service offering for corporates. Now that they’ve automated most of the value chain, they can offer these same benefits to other landlords. Corporations save on rents thanks to the operational excellence and know-how from WeWork. The company makes money but diminishes their risk as they don’t own or operate these white-labeled spaces.

In other words, they’ve built a horizontal integration mimicking Amazon Web Services (AWS). They can know leverage their initial investment and scale infinitely, keeping their costs down while diminishing their risk.

WeWork isn’t a coworking; they are the data service company for the Real Estate at large.

Future integrations

However, their vision is to provide the ultimate experience for Millennials. I opened this article stating that the way our generation lives is changing dramatically. Work is but one aspect of this shift. A much larger one is that that encompasses our living. We don’t buy houses, we rent. We don’t stay in the same location, we move. We don’t have local friends; we have international ones.

One of the consequences of this transformation is that typical rentals don’t fit the Millennial mindset anymore.

Enter the co-living movement. What if we applied the same culture, community and space designs to living quarters instead of office space? That’s what WeWork has been trying to do with their co-living brand WeLive.

They aren’t the first ones by any stretch. They weren’t the first ones to do coworking either. Nonetheless, their know-how of this ‘co-generation’ might give them an edge on this next wave.

So far they haven’t been doing well with WeLive. Time will say if they end up owning this space too. What’s clear is that they’re experimenting in many ways around the concept.

“The companies’ new joint building in Brooklyn, Dock 72, is a 675,000 square foot Class-A building. WeWork will occupy 222,000 sq ft, while 35,000 sq ft of the building will be devoted to amenities designed by WeWork, including a 13,000 sq ft food hall, a 15,000 sq ft wellness center, lounges, conference rooms, and a rooftop conference center and event facility, among other amenities.”
[…]
“The building also will have its own app to assist in building security, conference center booking, food deliveries, and transportation updates.”

WeWork’s $20 Billion Dream

Last words

It’s easy to dismiss WeWork as the coworking company. But as we’ve seen, the company is pursuing an aggressive and ambitious strategy. They’re taking many risks, but they’re also pioneering some strategic end-to-end advantages that can give them the edge.

The most impressive aspect of WeWork is their bet on the future of the Millennial generation. They might be too early for co-living, but I do not doubt that we will see an explosion of it in the next few years.

Everyone should start watching this space up close as it will redefine many of the things we take for granted. Workspaces are one of them. Logistics is another. But residential space, transportation, ownership, dating or education are others. Radiating from a communal gathering space, myriad altered behaviors will develop and with them, new opportunities for new companies with different business models.

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Facebook’s Immaturity And Its Consequences

Facebook’s Immaturity And Its Consequences

It hasn’t been a good year for Facebook. We can all agree on that. I’ve been very vocal about this online. I like Facebook, but their culture and management get on my nerves. For a while now, I’ve been trying to understand why.

I’ve been an entrepreneur for 15 years. When I got into technology, it was because I believed technology could fix many problems. Technology turns labor-intensive processes into easy ones. It produces efficiencies that enable economies of scale. Scale that can be leveraged to help and serve more people.

With age and experience, I’ve evolved my perceptions. Technology is incredible, but infusing it with quasi-mythological powers is a gross misconception. The world isn’t as clean and straightforward as technology wants it to be. While advancement is welcome, we spend most of our time wrestling in the mud of humanity.

As my experience grew, I began to fix my attention, not to the technology per se, but to what that enabled or achieved. I realized that while new products or services are great, they’re shrouded in context. Human context. Isolating the impact of such innovations from the people that are touched by them is a dangerous and costly mistake.

The reach and impact of our current innovations have grown dramatically in the last five years. We’ve gone from a company that served five million users, to world-dominating empires.

This growth has implications. There is a cost that we all have to pay. And it’s precisely this cost that most are ignoring and brushing away. We want global reach and recognition but no responsibility. We want an Augustus treatment but shrug away the burden of disruption. In the climb to Olympus, we are willing to sacrifice everything. Machiavelli would be proud of us.

The problem though is that we don’t live in isolation. Consequences have the nasty habit of catching up with you. And this is precisely what’s happening to Facebook.

When I look at them, I see the reflection of the technocratic elites. And it makes me cringe. I see young people clinging to the brand as a way to find their own identity. I behold talented people offering their happiness and mental wellbeing to the altars of the tech gods. Their reward, a sit at the table, a place away from the homelessness.

Technology is creating a difference in classes. You are either a tech insider, or you’re not. If you’re a member of our club, you get exclusive benefits like access to better networks, more knowledge, and better salaries. If you’re not in technology, we don’t care. You should learn how to code. You should get yourself a nanodegree online. You should be using car sharing platforms instead of using the broken public transport system.

The one thing this narrative doesn’t highlight is the fact that only a particular elite has access to this. In the process of bettering the world, we’re creating moats that are, single-handedly, making the world the roughest place to many strata of society.

And it’s this myopia, this lack of awareness and responsibility, this egoism of tech buddies first, everyone else later, that makes me ashamed of Facebook.

Their problem isn’t one of technology. It’s one of culture. They don’t want to do evil. They’ve just built an overly simplistic model of the world according to their algorithms. And they trust it and they believe in it, and they don’t question it, and they lived chained by it.

And it’s reckoning time.

“Facebook’s CEO’s constant apologies aren’t a promise to do better. They’re a symptom of a profound crisis of accountability.”

Why Zuckerberg’s 14-Year Apology Tour Hasn’t Fixed Facebook

A look at this past week’s news is enough to feel the brewing storm. Every part of the Facebook system is being questioned. Does Facebook scan your messenger without your consent? Can Zuckerberg erase content from your inbox without you knowing or even agreeing? Facebook is playing doctor with your data and isn’t asking your permission?

The current narrative spun by the social network’s culture is “trust us, we know better.” The truth is, facts have shown, they don’t. The truth is, no one does.

“I actually am not sure we shouldn’t be regulated.”

Mark Zuckerberg CNN Interview Highlights

Facebook’s privacy concerns have ramifications

This global backlash is having real repercussions for all businesses. People are starting to distrust and prosecute any breach of trust from any tech operator. With the GDPR around the corner, it’s critical for all organizations to understand the wind of change.

Any application that is planning to use user-data beyond the explicit scope needs to reassess how they do it. It doesn’t matter users clicked on the elusive Terms Of Service. If your customers don’t understand what their data is being used for, there will be thunder.

Facebook’s privacy woes are becoming beacons in the sky for users to realize what’s going on behind the curtain of Oz. More users will begin to distrust and demand tighter levels of control. Any company that is ignoring this issue will be burnt at the stake.

Product developers should update their priorities and bump privacy and data control to the top. It’s not that the GDPR will punish you, it’s that the mobs will incinerate your business.

Final words

I am not into the #DeleteFacebook movement. I believe it delivers tremendous value. But there is also a hidden side to it. It’s a double-edged sword; one most people insist that doesn’t exist. I think many people in the industry need to mature their worldviews beyond their fancy bro-clubs. The world is vast and complex. Everything we put into play has consequences. Ripples that are being magnified by our technological advancement.

Ignoring our responsibility towards society is, in my eyes, betraying the reason why we work in the industry. We shouldn’t sacrifice our weekends and holiday for better salaries. We shouldn’t forgo our friendships for the sake of bro-recognition and selfie glory. We do this to help others. The moment we believe in our deity and on the absoluteness of our reason, we’ve unquestionably lost the way.

More walking, more reflecting, more traveling, more reading. More empathy, more ethics and above all, more humanity

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Star Wars: The rise of the SpaceX mini-constellation

Star Wars: The rise of the SpaceX mini-constellation

On Thursday, the FCC green-lighted SpaceX's ambitious plan to launch their minisatellite broadband network. This comes right after SpaceX's successful test of two test satellites in February.

In 2015, Elon Musk announced the creation of project StarLink. The goal is to build a satellite broadband network that offers fiber-like access from anywhere in the world.

To achieve this, they plan to launch 4425 minisatellites and build the largest Low Earth Orbit (LEO) constellation to date. Just to put this into perspective, according to the Index of Objects Launched into Outer Space in 2017 there where 4635 satellites in orbit around Earth. That's an increase of 8.91% compared to 2016. SpaceX intends to double that total in less than six years. 

Musk isn't chasing a crazy dream though. There are existing satellite providers like Iridium or Intelsat. However, both networks rely on old and bulky technology. Some, like Intelsat, orbit in high altitude geostationary orbit (~36.000 km). It gives them much larger coverture of the planet's surface but adds massive latency problems. These networks are suitable for non-critical connections, but not for low-latency ones. On the other hand, systems like Iridium went for Low Earth Orbits. The massive costs of launching and building the satellites, though, restricted how many they could put in orbit (66). A smaller network reduced their coverage and translated into low bandwidth and speeds

SpaceX FCC fillings

New manufacturing processes are enabling the construction of much smaller and cheaper satellites. Cheaper satellites are more accessible to put into orbit and populate the LEO and VLEO (Very Low Earth Orbit) with a large mesh of next-generation satellites. This mesh can deliver under 50ms latency performance.

SpaceX isn't the only one racing towards that objective. There are at least four other organizations in the game, OneWeb, Boeing, Leosat and the Chinese-sponsored Hongyan.

OneWeb, which has investment from Softbank and Richard Branson, got FCC approval in June of last year, but still has to launch any satellites. 

NSR: China's LEO Constellations Ambitions

Why is everyone trying to build a satellite constellation?

What interests me, isn't the news per se, but the strategic reasons for it. There has always been an interest in dominating space communications. However, SpaceX's speed and structural advantages are putting pressure on the industry.

Musk's approach to space domination is a perfect example of vertical integration. I mentioned before that when entering a nascent market, the best strategy is always one of verticalization. Owning the whole stack gives the entrant significant advantages.

SpaceX is doing just that. They're integrating the whole stack, from rocket launcher (Falcon 9) to satellite constellation. They're developing all technologies in-house, giving them a speed and cost edge.

Meanwhile, their closest competitors, OneWeb are following a horizontal integration strategy. They're working with different partners, including Airbus, to deliver on several elements of the system. While it's not a bad strategy when competition is fierce, it first requires some traction. Going for a horizontal approach when there is still no market, is not a wise move.

But why fight for satellite broadband? SpaceX is looking for a lucrative market to finance their end goal of Mars colonization. Building space communication capabilities is a must for them. In the process though, they can also outsmart all terrestrial and space broadband operators and make a massive profit.

According to the company, their goal is to deliver global broadband access to those users that have either no infrastructure or lack affordable prices

Source: World Economic Forum
Source: World Bank

While these reasons seem very altruistic, the truth is that the strategic value of owning a global communication network is massive. 

Who wins with a global satellite broadband network?

There are some distinct strategic scenarios. The most straightforward one is competing with the current terrestrial operators.

Being able to compete, not only on speed but on latency and network coverage, is massive. I have no doubt FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is looking for increase innovation in that space.

The FCC is currently examining additional applications for the operation of NGSO FSS constellations, most of which include large numbers of satellites,” the agency said. “With today’s action, the Commission facilitates greater broadband offerings and competition in the United States.”

FCC Grants OneWeb US Access for Broadband Satellite Constellation

An essential advantage of a LEO satellite network, apart from global coverage, is long-distance latency. Communication between the satellites and ground stations is done via radio. However, SpaceX's proposed satellite to satellite communication is done via optic links. This enables the creation of a high-speed low-latency space mesh network. This mesh can span 7846 km between nodes, allowing for a drastic reduction of the number of routers data has to go through. In other words, terrestrial long-distance connections (Europe to Singapore for example), might go through 10 routers and take 200 ms. Space long-distance connections will go through three routers (minisatellites) in under 50 ms.

The gain is more than considerable and it's the chief competitive advantage Musk is after. Such an infrastructure would enable SpaceX to route part of the Internet's long-distance traffic through their network.

“The goal will be to have the majority of long-distance Internet traffic go over this network and about 10% of local consumer and business traffic. So that's, still probably 90% of people's local access will still come from fiber but we'll do about 10% business to consumer direct and more than half of the long-distance traffic.”

Elon Musk, SpaceX speech 2015

Beyond competing with Internet providers, it could enable strategic low-latency network for crucial businesses. Google, which is one of the leading investors behind SpaceX, is one that comes to mind. They already run their dedicated terrestrial fiber optics network. Having access to a space network would entrench their competitive position and enable them to have a massive advantage. Imagine the creation of a Space Content Delivery Network. Imagine the leverage YouTube might acquire with such infrastructure.

That's if terrestrial operators don't innovate and improve their networks. Musk isn't discarding this option, and he acknowledges that the risk is real.

“One of the mistakes that Teledesic made was not assuming that terrestrial networks would get much better over time. So we need to make sure that the system we design is good, even taking into account significant improvements in the terrestrial systems, but I do think there's an important difference between what we're doing and say Teledesic."

Elon Musk, SpaceX speech 2015

The China menace

Here are where things get interesting. As I stated before, there are several players in the field. One of them is China government's Hongyan 300 minisatellite constellation.

While they're still behind SpaceX, both regarding deployment and satellite fleet size, they have a powerful ally, the Chinese government. China's goal isn't financial return, but world domination. This is well aligned with their "One Belt One Road” (OBOR) initiative, and they'll invest until they win.

"In fact, it can be argued that gaining positive ROI is not the end goal of China’s space program but primarily the projection and increase of its power and influence across the globe. The side effect of this is to potentially undermine the value proposition of Western players that go by traditional market rules and strategies, specifically in the Eurasian, African and Latin American regions as well as other low-income countries that cannot afford high-speed connections."

China's LEO Constellation Ambitions

On top of being a state-sponsored operation, they also have a technology advantage. China has the only Quantum Communication satellite in existence. The development of Quantum communications can be a deal breaker for SpaceX. Quantum technology could deliver instantaneous transmissions between thousands of kilometers.

The technology is still experimental, but the rate of advancement is drastic. It wouldn't surprise me to see functional Quantum transmissions happening in the next five years. Let's remember that five years is still short term. Most Mini satellite constellations will take 6 – 7 years to fully deploy.

This is one of the reasons why the current US bans against Chinese technology companies can have a tremendous impact on US competitiveness.

Worth noting that China isn't the only one investing in Quantum. South Korea is also investing in this space and recently acquired ID Quantique (IDQ), one of the most advanced companies in the field.

Potential disrupted industries

Broadband satellite networks won't only disrupt telecommunication providers. It will affect many sectors. One that will be hit the most is the logistics industry.

Access to global tracking capabilities will supercharge cargo tracking. It will bring a new dimension to all IoT projects build around that space. From ship container tracking to aircraft location and maritime commercial lanes control. This space is already seeing increased activity from China and their "One Belt One Road” (OBOR) initiative. Investment in real-time high-bandwidth logistic applications built on top of the satellite mesh will be a no-brainer.

Within the IoT space, Industrial IoT (IIoT or Industry 4.0) could also benefit from these networks. Mining rigs, remote factories, energy producers, farming operations, oil & gas explorations, etc. Access to high-speed global coverage Internet will catalyze the adoption of IoT in the industry domain.

Another obvious winner would be autonomous fleet operators. The field is growing exponentially and is if anything, data heavy. As this space evolves and fleet managers start deploying vehicles and robots to distant locations, the need for enhanced data-heavy links will increase.

CBInsights CVC Report 2017
CBInsights CVC Report 2017

In this regard, SpaceX holds a strategic position. The fact that SpaceX has access to Tesla and SolarCity technology is a significant advantage. It allows for tremendous vertical integration of the stack.

Tesla vehicles will come with satellite antennas for global data links. Such move will create an initial foothold for StarLink's service. At the same time, it gives Tesla a significant advantage in their industry. If that wasn't enough, Tesla's solar roofs (SolarCity tech), could also be outfitted with StarLink receptors. These autonomous units could power many remote areas, expanding both Tesla's and SpaceX's business.

Another industry that could see disruption are networking equipment makers. New satellite entrants might displace companies like Qualcomm, Broadcom, Intel, Huawei or Cisco. Broadcom already tried to sue SpaceX for poaching some of their top experts. I wouldn't be surprised to see the rise of a new crop of disruptive satellite equipment companies like KymetaMynaric or Isotropic Systems.

Many other fields would be affected by this. An interesting one is Education. Global Internet access at affordable prices (big hypothesis), would enable increased education in developing countries. Better education leads to better living standards. But this change could also upset the rule of many authoritarian regimes. The geopolitical implications of the long-term can't be ignored. 

Censorship and antitrust

The impact of such networks will be drastic and can generate major issues at a political and regulatory level. On the one hand, it can enable citizens to bypass state censorships. Governments have control of their physical boundaries, but not of the sky. Individuals might install ground antennas and link to the global satellite network and bypass any local monopoly. This though has prominent political implications.

"Then there's the – whether it's legal to have a ground link. Obviously, any given country can say it's illegal to have a ground link. From our standpoint, we could conceivably continue to broadcast, and they'd have a choice of either shooting our satellites down.. or not. China can do that. So we probably shouldn't broadcast there. If they get upset with us, they can blow our satellites up. I mean, I'm hopeful that we can structure agreements with various countries to allow communication with their citizens, but it is on a country by country basis."

Elon Musk, SpaceX speech 2015

Another risk is that of monopoly or oligopolies. With two or three viable competitors in this space, one has to wonder who or how would it be regulated. So far FCC is on top of it in the US, but with a global reach, there is no protection in other regions like Africa or South America. 

Deep Tech opportunities

Despite all these things, the field is opening massive opportunities. There are, still many problems to be solved that startups and investors can dig into.

Ground links

The whole ground link connection can generate many opportunities. SpaceX has mentioned that they're working on a phased array antenna, but there are other ways to create that link. From Kymeta's holographic technology to Mynaric's laser tracking tech.

I also wonder who will be capable of making technology that allows for drastic miniaturization. This could enable the incorporation of ground links within smartphones. So far this is considered impossible, but it's an exciting space for research.

Other companies are heading towards a more prosaic path. That's the case of Infostellar, which is creating the first Airbnb for ground antennas.

Manufacturing

Innovative manufacturing processes are also vital to the industry. New materials and new ways of building both, satellites and rockets are critical. 3D printing and assembling will be pivotal in the space and it's no surprise to see important investments happening.

“People in the space industry have a tough time manufacturing things. They're pretty good at designing them in the first place, but they don't actually know how to make them in volume."

Elon Musk, SpaceX speech 2015

Launching platforms

Another apparent field is how to place those satellites into orbit. SpaceX achieved a major step with the Falcon 9. As of 2016, SpaceX was pricing 2719 dollars per kilogram of LEO satellite. Musk's goal is to hit the 1100 dollars per kilogram soon. 

Falcon 9 Launch outcomes. Source: Wikipedia.
Falcon 9 Booster landings. Source: Wikipedia.

Meanwhile, many others are trying to lower the cost of launching objects to space. Some are focusing on micro or nanosatellites payloads (i.e., PLD Space), others are researching new solid fuels and others like SpinLaunch are attempting utterly unique launching methods like spinning catapults. 

Launch systems by country. Source: Wikipedia

Satellite to Satellite communication

As the LEO and VLEO mesh start growing and traffic starts flowing through their backbone, satellite to satellite communications will become critical. So far, most systems used radio links for ground and satellite to satellite communication. SpaceX though has said theirs will employ optic links for space.

Mynaric is already on the verge of commercializing their sat to sat laser communicators, and I wouldn't be surprised to see others jump in.

Mynaric laser technology

One interesting option is Quantum communication between the satellites. The technology is still a little far away, but I expect it to become the next generation tech used in space communications.

Satellite defense

A field that will become very attractive is satellite defense technology. Just like with drones, satellites will need disabling and protection. With LEO and VLEO becoming a crowded space and political, commercial and regulatory issues at stake, being able to disrupt and protect satellites will become critical.

New technologies for Satellite to Satellite (S2S) disruption, Satellite to Ground (S2G) disruption, full satellite disabling and debris protection will emerge in coming years, if not earlier. 

From crazy to doable

I must confess that I find this space of Frontier Tech fascinating. We've gone from crazy research that was only accessible to a government-funded organization like NASA, to commercial companies and VCs funding startups in the field.

These startups require advance research, but it's suddenly becoming fundable and realistic to launch a project in this space. I expect more companies to get involved in the industry, either by building satellite-powered applications or propelling their satellite technology.

For once, this is real Deep Technology that has the potential to change billions of lives and deliver those retarded animojis even to the poles. 

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