Nobu Blogs: World Class Team

Posted May 27th, 2021 Posted in Blog

Eight years ago, I founded Astroscale as a complete outsider to the space industry. Now, we are 200 Space Sweepers strong across five regions, with a team that is approximately 65% in engineering, around 30% female, and represented by more than 10 different nationalities.

I am so proud of this team — it is truly world class. I occasionally have the opportunity to speak at the United Nations and with other international organizations, but I can think of more than 10 people on our team who could probably do a better job than I do.

There are three reasons why I think our team is so strong. First, we aim high, and even if we fail, we do so in a spirit of learning and improvement. Second, we are bound together in global cooperation, even as the COVID-19 pandemic has kept us from traveling overseas and meeting in-person for more than a year. I witnessed this as our teams came together to successfully launch ELSA-d in March. Third, we have a low turnover rate compared to other venture companies and as a result, our team has been able to grow stronger together.

I don’t think there is a secret to growing a company successfully, and I am in no way a professional in this regard, but I wanted to share some of my observations:

  • Since we are still a venture company, roles and duties can evolve pretty quickly, so we carefully review each job description, balance the tasks, and layout the basics of each position. The helps ensure that people know what’s needed of them, while also having the flexibility to help and expand in other areas.
  • With the rise of remote work, it is important to keep everyone motivated, which is why we value a working environment free of unnecessary meetings and put an emphasis on effective communication. This allows people to focus and not get distracted by things outside the scope of their roles.
  • Our team is aligned around our very clear and challenging mission. We are all here for a purpose, and we share a passion for that purpose.

Finally, I think that at a fundamental level, our team is compassionate. Prior to the launch of ELSA-d, eight engineers from Japan had to take a very early Saturday morning flight to the launch site in Kazakhstan. An emergency state was just announced in parts of Japan due to the pandemic, including Tokyo, and the infection rate was growing rapidly around the world. I knew the “Baikonur Eight” felt uneasy about the trip, and I wanted to relieve them of any anxiety, so I went to the airport to see them off — to my surprise, several other team members were there for the very same reason (with masks and social distance measures in place of course).

Seeing off our Baikonur 8 at Haneda Airport

This was just one of many moments when I was struck by what a world-class team we have. By nature, I worry about many things, including how we will continue to grow this amazing team if it reaches 1,000 or 10,000 members. It is a constant challenge, but I find the fun in it — largely because we just have great people.