In this age of social networks and apps, we are more connected than ever before. They have become a part of our everyday lives, yet important developments are often missed. As many countries are now emerging as space-faring nations, space has become a truly global sector.
Spaceoneers spoke to Maxime Sixdeniers, Co-Founder of SpaceBoard, who is trying to connect the global space industry on a specialised online professional network.
Credit: Maxime Sixdeniers
Credit: Maxime Sixdeniers
Spaceoneers: What is SpaceBoard?
Maxime Sixdeniers, SpaceBoard: SpaceBoard is a professional network dedicated to the space sector. We are now bringing together students, researchers, professors, universities, companies, societies and startups – all the different stakeholders together in this platform. Our aim is to really unite the space community.
Spaceoneers: How did the idea come about?
Maxime Sixdeniers, SpaceBoard: We have been developing the network for several years now. The idea came about when I was studying the SpaceMaster programme, while at Luleå University of Technology (LTU), Sweden – an international, multidisciplinary masters degree in space science and technology. We wanted to do something for the TEDx event that was taking place there, focusing on space. We discussed some ideas with them and from those meetings came the idea of creating a collaboration platform for the space industry. We went with it and thought ‘ok, how can we start?’ We thought maybe the first step is to start with an online platform for our programme. We took that further to include several other study programmes where students could find about scholarships, courses being taught, connect online and find a directory of links for space companies. That is how we started. The fun fact is that only a few months after we started I got the opportunity to present the project on stage for TEDx. That was in 2013 and we’ve come a long way since!
Spaceoneers: What were the biggest challenges when connecting with people?
Maxime Sixdeniers: It was a steep learning curve at first but the most important thing was talking to people. Eventually we decided we wanted to evolve the first concept of SpaceBoard towards a niche, professional network for the space industry – that in itself was a challenge. We talked to different people that we thought would be interested in this platform: universities, societies, companies, students and industry professionals, and we realised that they all had needs that are not fulfilled at the moment. Many companies were looking to different platforms to promote job offers and to look for the right candidates, and the needs of the space industry can be very, very specific – often highly specialised with very advanced technology. It is not always easy for them to reach out the right people, so this is what we wanted to help with.
Spaceoneers: The sector is rapidly changing. How are you keeping up with the latest trends and developments?
Maxime Sixdeniers: That is not an easy thing to do, because you have to collect inputs from many different sources. You have to be plugged into a lot of different networks. There are many special magazines and online news channels. Then you have your own networks, which are very important. But with so many different channels that can get very complicated. The advantage of SpaceBoard is it brings together the whole sector under just one platform.
Spaceoneers: And how do you keep up with the latest space startups?
Maxime Sixdeniers: Space startups are emerging all the time and it is very difficult to keep up with it all. Talking to people is important. This is why initiatives like Spaceoneers are so important; to help bring some exposure to what is happening in this emerging “new space” or “Space 4.0” in Europe. SpaceBoard can help in connecting those people and help share that content.
Spaceoneers: How does SpaceBoard support “Space 4.0”?
Maxime Sixdeniers, SpaceBoard: SpaceBoard is exactly Space 4.0. By connecting all the key players of the industry under one platform, it helps get the discussion going and help foster innovation in the sector. We hope eventually that government agencies and politicians will join, as our goal is not only to be a platform for engineers and technicians. We want to enable this interaction between governments, private sector, society and politics in line with “Space 4.0”.
Spaceoneers: One of the biggest challenges that many of the space start-ups say they have is finding funding. Is there a way that people will be able to find investors with the platform?
Max Sixdeniers, SpaceBoard: Yes, I agree, finding the right investors can be difficult for startups. That is a challenge. We really hope that in the future that could be managed through the platform. Our focus for now is to build an online community and make the sector aware of SpaceBoard; that they can register and connect with the industry. If we can get to a point where people start to see SpaceBoard as the number one network to go for everything space-related then investors will also know this is a place they can connect with other space-related startups and other stakeholders. Then we can also think of implementing tools to help connect start-ups and investors.
Spaceoneers: How can people currently make use of SpaceBoard?
Max Sixdeniers: At the moment we are working on the first version of the platform. We launched it half a year ago, and people can now register on SpaceBoard, create a profile and connect with other people in the industry. We have quite a big directory of companies and universities and programmes that students can search. It is also now possible to create a board for an organisation directly on the platform, making it possible for an organisation to be visible on the platform and interact with the community. People can also search for events and we will soon have official job offers, which will be useful for those searching for career opportunities.
The best way to use SpaceBoard is to connect with people, share with the community and help make the platform active. That way we hope SpaceBoard will grow into a successful and useful professional network for the entire global industry.