Driving the entire company with a meticulous strategy. The new CEO talks about the future of the space telecom and Warpspace.
It has been five months since Hiromitsu Azuma took over as the new CEO of Warpspace. We asked him about the current space startup industry and the future of Warpspace.
-First, what do you think of the recent environment and market conditions surrounding space optical communications?
[Azuma] The space startup industry is growing daily, and expectations for space startups are expanding in various fields, such as security, entertainment, and travel.
In the field of optical communications, which we have been promoting since 2019, 2022 saw an increase in the number of new entrants worldwide, and it was certainly a year in which an era began to move forward. The market as a whole is paying more attention to optical communication technology, and the tide has turned.
-So you will be on the main battlefield from now on?
[Azuma] Yes, I believe that we have reached a phase in which we, as a start-up company, have to think about “business” at once. We are not as strong as the big players in financial and technological resources, so it is more important than ever to develop a strategy to focus our resources on a single point of attack and win the battle.
For example, Microsoft has grown from a small operating system developer to a global leader in hardware products like notebook PCs. Learning from their stories, we must aim for a detailed strategy that will allow us to win at the entry point and beyond as a business.
-Why were you selected as CEO of Warpspace, which is moving into its next phase as a startup?
[Azuma] As for the company, I would like to substitute a comment from the former CEO, Tsunemachi. Looking back on my past, I have managed the entire supply chain as COO of WarpSpace. I believe that I was selected because of my experience in corporate management, including my previous jobs, where I created and implemented businesses.
For us to lead as a deep-tech startup company, we need people who can handle the entire business while knowing technology development. I have a background in IT, telecommunications, embedded engineering, and cybersecurity, and this is where I can best utilize my experience.
-What do you think about the effect on management of having you as a CEO with a cybersecurity background?
[Azuma] Security is very important for telecommunications carriers. We can make decisions based on a technical understanding of which processes are at risk when designing specific services for commercialization, and we see this as an advantage.
-How do you plan to handle your team as you take on the challenge of space optical communications, a completely new business area, and a new market?
[Azuma] As I mentioned, the phase has changed, but end-to-end service development, including hardware, is a series of difficulties. My job is to play a central role in the company during the most challenging period up to the service launch and bring it all together.
-What kind of team management do you aim for?
[Azuma] As a startup, building an organization that can move quickly when the time comes is important. To achieve this, all company members must understand the concept of management and strategy. I want to unify our understanding of the market environment and industry surrounding Warpspace and establish a foundation to move all at once based on a single value standard.
-The CXOs are the pillars of this effort, aren’t they?
[Azuma] Yes, Warpspace already has a team of CxOs who are highly specialized in various fields, and we will draw out the best from them.
In terms of business, this is precisely what a CEO does. I will create a winning scenario based on the current environment and resources for the next 5 to 10 years and work with CSO Hirokazu Mori to implement this scenario into reality. Every day, we discuss how to make the path to sales growth as a business more realistic.
CFO Akiko Kitahara is also responsible for creating a financial plan aligned with the business strategy drawn up in this process. We work together to set goals and gather financial resources, even in rough market conditions.
On the corporate side, I want to mention CMO Ryota Takahashi. He is working not only in Japan but also in Europe, the U.S., and overseas. We also work closely together as part of fundraising, such as sponsorship packages, in a way that crosses marketing and finance.
In addition, Akihiro Nagata, our CTO, is leading us in medium- to long-term R&D, core technology development using optics, and the promotion of university collaboration. And we have team members supporting each CxO.
The CEO of a company is aware of all resources and moves them based on a strategy, but that does not mean that he or she can do everything at 120%. That is why I want every team member to support the company to promote the strategy and ultimately lead it to success.
-How do you plan to overcome the hurdles that arise from your different positions as you move more globally in the future?
[Azuma] As a business trying to expand worldwide, challenges still arise from international competition and differing principles as a nation. We are taking the absolute high road in business, markets, and technology, and we are competing with many players. On the other hand, the most challenging point is how to go about it when we are confronted with forces that are not like that. However, even if a significant force twists us, the individual causes and effects should be clear. We will simulate the balance of power over the next ten years by understanding our resources and characteristics and looking at the big picture to determine how to manage and protect them.
-What is your vision for the future of space development?
[Azuma] We can predict, to a certain extent, the changes that will occur in our lifetime. In the next 20 years, when we start lunar exploration and development, and later on Mars, we will be able to use near real-time communication and infrastructure similar to that on Earth in various regions.
Just as we can know what is happening around the world in near real-time on Earth today, in the future, we will be able to communicate in real-time from the Moon and Mars on any channel. Such a world will surely be realized in our lifetime. If we work backward from this future vision, we can naturally envision the mission that we should be working on now.
We at Warpspace have a mandate that society expects of us, and we must carry it out. We have a ticket in our hands to use space as a field to raise the entire human society's quality of life and make an impact on society. As space becomes more open, private companies will be able to participate more widely, and as life in space becomes more and more commonplace, I would like to be a part of pushing the frontiers of space.
-Lastly, do you have a message for our readers paying attention to Warpspace?
[Azuma] As a startup, we often hear the key phrase “from Tsukuba to the world” from our shareholders as they invest in us. Every day, I think about how to repay the expectations we have received this way. We want to return the favor by increasing the value of Warpspace, both financially and qualitatively, in terms of name recognition and our approach and attitude toward business.
To this end, we will continue to provide information daily, and we would be grateful if those who support us spread the word. We are a company that is trying to raise its flag not only in Japan but worldwide, and we hope you will continue to watch over us.