Hard Tech — Tough Choices

Pete Newell

February 5, 2021

For Payam Banazadeh, launching the first American commercial SAR satellite into space wasn’t the hardest part of being a first-time founder. There were other headaches to navigate as his company, Capella Space, worked to create the capability to reliably monitor anything anywhere around the globe. Many of the challenges were ones other founders will recognize well: running low on money and worrying about making payroll; making sure product tests worked the way they were supposed to; managing personal relationships in the face of all-consuming work; figuring out how to navigate various government regulations. Payam quickly learned that each day in a startup brings a new challenge to meet or problem to fix. Coping has meant figuring out how to get comfortable with a never-ending series of existential problems, something he says he’s done in the three years since Capella Space launched. Having watched Payam go through the first Hacking for Defense class at Stanford, I saw him meet some of these hurdles first hand and was glad he agreed to share his story on Innovators Radio Show and Podcast.

Hear the full story of how Capella Space got started and where the company is headed in the audio here; or skip to the time stamps below.

2:49: A startup idea sparked by deep frustration

6:05: Trying to fit a bus in a backpack

9:34: The day they ran out of runway

12:02: Why timing is everything when building a startup

16:44: 10 weeks, 10 pivots — Hacking for Defense Lessons Learned

19:03: Customer discovery was key to attracting investors

21:04: More setbacks than joy in building a startup

28:06: The challenges of operating in a regulated market

31:21: Making space for new rules

40:05: “No one else was doing it, so we had to”

43:50: Critical problems to be solved

55:37: This is the toughest part of being a founder

The Innovators Radio Show and Podcast highlights the best and brightest mission-driven entrepreneurs — people dedicated to making the world a better place. The show airs Mondays at 11 am PT/2 pm ET on Stanford University radio station KZSU, 90.1 FM, and is streamed at kzsu.org, Past episodes are archived here.

Tune in July 1 when our guest will be Bonny Simi, President of JetBlue Technology Ventures.

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