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Cold Star Project

Cold Star Project

Author: Jason Kanigan

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The Cold Star Project digs into the challenges of scaling fast that tech and Space manufacturing founders encounter. Money does not solve all problems--so what now? Listen in to discover what scaling problems you'll be running into soon, and get a serious advantage in starting to solve them before they run you over!
203 Episodes
Dr. Moriba Jah, professor at the University of Texas at Austin, past navigator for many missions to Mars, and space situational awareness expert returns to the Cold Star Project. With host Jason Kanigan, Dr. Jah digs deeper into the challenges of space object identification, tracking and orbital prediction, including: Why is it a problem that satellite orbit pathing predictions assume a spheroid shape? What issues does this create? What can we do to improve the predictive ability of satellite pathing calculations? Why do we need to improve this accuracy--what’s the rush, what’s driving this need? What is the technology behind space traffic management: what era is it from, and how does it work? Who operates it? What would a better system look like, and who should operate it? Why was the Two Line Element format chosen? What’s wrong with TLEs? It’s my understanding from speaking with our colleagues, primarily the British, that more information is available or even broadcast, but some is truncated to fit in the TLE format. Why is this done? In my own research, I found a Consultative Committee for Space Data Systems blue book from 2009, updated in 2012. From there I went on to the CCSDS website. Thinking is clearly done on the topic: why, then, is (from the outsider’s perspective, at any rate) the pace of change glacial? What would a modern satellite data communication system look like? How many lines would you recommend? What would this additional data transmission enable us to do or know? In the past year space situational awareness and space domain awareness have finally been getting more of the attention it deserves. What else needs to happen to gain the energy to make change and the funding required to do so?    Previous interview on the Cold Star Project with Dr. Jah:    Wikipedia page on Dr. Jah:   Get new episodes directly in your inbox:   Talk to Cold Star:
Starting in Europe and ending in the USA, Istvan Lorincz and the other co-founders of Morpheus Space have been on a long startup journey. We discuss: their fundraising efforts what has stood out as a key but little-mentioned factor in developing a startup the realistic expectations founders should have when deciding to form a startup.    Morpheus Space website: Get new episodes directly in your inbox:   Talk to Cold Star:
Past Comptroller General of the United States, professor at the US Naval Academy, former Defense Business Board appointee, and author David Walker returns to the Cold Star Project--and this time we're addressing the question of whether the United States will still be a superpower by 2040. David has authored the book America In 2040: Still A Superpower? A Pathway To Success. What's wrong with America's fiscal policy, how did we get here, and what can we do about it?   Host Jason Kanigan asks David Walker:   - An investigation of organizations in decline produced the book Exit, Voice and Loyalty by Albert Hirschman. Out of the three choices, Voice is your option… What made you believe writing a book was the best way of influencing others? - Let’s hear your definition of “superpower”.   - What can we learn from past major powers about the problems of maintaining economic growth and military strength over decades?   - Specifically looking at the US now, what outcomes can we expect by 2040 if we don’t change our course? And your target?   - What in your opinion is today’s greatest economic and national security threat to America? How do we handle it?   - You educated me about the concept of “the tooth and the tail” in our last discussion… What needs to change in military investing (development, procurement, deployment) to ensure America remains a superpower over the next two decades?   - What budget controls and standards changes are necessary to achieve the level of results you want to see?   - Share your views on tax policy with us and how you envision these to to alter the long term outcome of the US economic situation.    Useful Links:   Get the book on Amazon (NOT an affiliate link):  Previous interview with David Walker on cultural development in government operations:  Disclaimer: We were not remunerated in any way by David Walker for discussing his book or any other topics.    OpEx Society:  Get new episodes directly in your inbox:  Talk to Cold Star:
Dr. Yan Song is back to complete our deep dive into operationalizing cultural development. This complex, systems thinking topic concludes with Yan's Step 4, transforming the culture. But how is this actually done?   Cultural Development with Dr. Yan Song series playlist:  Slide stills:   Competence slide:  Transformation (step 4) slide:  Operational Perspective slide:  Ecology slide:  Cultural Development slide:  Key Takeaways slide:   OpEx Society:  Get new episodes directly in your inbox:  Talk to Cold Star:
Dr. Yan Song and Cold Star Project host Jason Kanigan continue our exploration of what it takes to operationalize cultural development in organizations. In this deep talk we're looking at Steps Two and (unexpectedly for me, but we didn't want to leave people stranded) Three in a four-part process. I ask Yan about the following:   I had to laugh because the points on slide 7 “Enter New Territory 1 / 4” are the same things we see in sales. We are all trapped in our mental model of limiting beliefs, and what we say we’ll do is often different from what we actually do. Is there a way we can help ourselves become more aware of these processes and contradictions?    Slide 8 is about feedback loops and learning. In my experience, feedback loops have been the bugbear of organizations: they often are missing; they frequently have bad measures when they are in place; tasks and outcomes fall between the cracks as a result--and this obviously does not lead to operational excellence. Frankly, everybody seems to believe they are doing better than they actually are (including me). I also note the time difference between the “doing” and “learning” modes… I imagine this applies to organizations as well, since they are made of people? Is there anything we can do to accelerate learning?    Slide 9 Entropy Increases… Leonard Cohen’s line “from the wars against disorder”... Yeats’ “the center cannot hold”... Why do we need a defensive system against chaos? What would happen if we adopted chaos (would we go insane, Motorcycle Maintenance style?) This Slide 9 is worthy of tremendous discussion--what’s going on here? A snapshot of human perspective, one which I certainly recognize symptoms of my own behavior in! If things are always falling apart, what hope do we have of keeping an organization together long enough to operationalize cultural development and head towards operational excellence?    On Slide 10 we see the shift we must make. However, there is a lot here to explore and unpack. I like the “collective excellence” term. We can’t achieve cultural transformation (or much at all) alone. Reminding ourselves that the topic is “Bravely entering new territory”, I think we finally see what this can mean: not only picking up new ideas from some sort of inert or “doesn’t fight back” source like a book or a video, but rather exploring the new territory of someone else’s mind and ideas. Passive sources can jarr and possibly have their ideas denied by the recipient without pushback, but a live human will probably continue to argue. What are the consequences of that? (We see it played out often in Facebook arguments where no one changes the mind of the other). How can we avoid shut down?   Cultural Development with Dr. Yan Song series playlist:  Slide stills:  Step Two slide:  Reflexive Learning Loop slide:  Double Loop Learning slide:  Unilateral decision making slide:  Mutual decision making slide:  Step Three slide:  Competence slide:   OpEx Society:  Get new episodes directly in your inbox:  Talk to Cold Star:
Now that we've covered what operationalizing cultural development means, in the first episode of this series (CSP S04E04), Dr. Yan Song returns to the Cold Star Project to tackle the next step. How do we put this into action? What is the first step in operationalizing cultural development? With host Jason Kanigan, Dr. Song digs into systems thinking and the approach he has arrived at for taking effective action on this critical organizational topic.   Jason Kanigan asks Yan: “The Truth” is a fundamental concept for both of us. Your process for operationalizing cultural development, as does mine for improving the processes of businesses, begins with confronting the brutal facts. What form does this take and what should investigators be looking for as indicators or starting points? In a slide we see a terrible condition of isolated, fearful, territory-protective people who have only the goal of personal survival. These elements come from Barry Oshry’s book Seeing Systems. How do these elements fit into a system, and how can the leader working to operationalize cultural development make use of them? It seems that by following the analysis track and improving each separately would not accomplish what we want, which is the improvement of the entire system. What, then, is the organizing principle or purpose of this system and how can we use these elements to improve it?  - I am surprised to see Patrick Lencioni’s Five Dysfunctions of a Team book in your presentation...but I probably shouldn’t be. I hadn’t thought his stuff was this high level (though I do think it is good: I think of his content as operational level but obviously I have some education to get on that point!). What is it about Lencioni’s approach that made you want to build it into your cultural development / confronting the brutal facts process? Let’s explore Lencioni’s pyramid. When initiating cultural development, from the pyramid we see that trust is the base. Trust typically comes after people see the actions of their leaders, and then those carrying out the tasks operationally can get comfortable with the conflict, need for commitment etc. But the leader has to start, it seems, from the top? Demonstrating focus on measures, proving their own accountability and commitment, then being willing to challenge the team and develop that trust? Where would you recommend people start?    Cultural Development with Dr. Yan Song series playlist:  Slide stills:  Cultural Development process slide:  Steps slide:  Hot Springs slide:  Set Up Camp slide:  Lencionoi - Collins slide:   OpEx Society:  Get new episodes directly in your inbox:  Talk to Cold Star:
Systems Thinking thought leader and Fortune 500 executive Yan Song is our guest on this first episode of a series on the Cold Star Project. Our series topic is about culture in organizations. The question we're asking in this episode is: How can we solve the 21st Century challenge of operationalizing cultural development? Begin with the possibility that we can build culture development right into our operations, and have our people improve it as they carry out their daily tasks.   Host Jason Kanigan asks Yan Song: How important is organizational culture? Of course it is nice to work at an org with a pleasant, uplifting culture; however, what do we mean in a measurable, rationalist, even economic sense? What does “operationalizing cultural development” mean? How are we defining it? What are the ‘levers and dials’ of how it works? {Play, Purpose, Potential in the HBR article; compensation is not a factor, not a surprise to many of us; higher customer satisfaction; higher revenue per employee; “ToMo” total motivation; article gets into some behavioral economics with the emotional & economic pressures that I don’t believe are always valid, but we can mention them} Is there a relationship between company process and employee motivation? {up to 50 motivation points on a -100 to +100 scale in the HBR article}  - What can leaders do to help initiate and support this kind of change? {Huddle, Why, role design in the HBR article; note how these go back to identity and sense of personal involvement} How can a leader discern what kind of culture they are in now, and whether senior management will be supportive of such change? We understand “the good” of this improvement, but what if it turns out senior management is scared of the idea? How else can things go wrong? What are the consequences if we misstep in our attempts to improve culture? How difficult is it to course-correct? Will there be damage to our reputation and future consequences like promotion blockage?   Useful Links:   HBR article we reference:   OpEx Society:  Get new episodes directly in your inbox:  Talk to Cold Star:
Atul Vashistha, globalization & outsourcing author and business founder, is on the Cold Star Project to explain how the Defense Business Board works. With considerable experience on the board, serving three presidents, Atul offers the perspective of vice chair and having managed board task forces. Host Jason Kanigan asks Atul to detail the process by which the Defense Business Board learns what its client the US Department of Defense wants, and develops its response as a report.   View the slides Atul referred to: Defense Business Board example study referenced in our discussion: Supply Wisdom website: Atul Vashistha's Amazon author page: Disclaimer: we were not compensated in any way for Atul's appearance or mentioning his companies or works. OpEx Society:​  Get new episodes directly in your inbox:​  Talk to Cold Star:
David Walker is a past Comptroller General of the United States, professor at the US Naval Academy, former Defense Business Board appointee, and author. He's on the Cold Star Project to discuss the role of culture in government operations, including with his own experience in the Government Accountability Office and on the Defense Business Board. Host Jason Kanigan asks:   // Defense Business Board //  - what is the purpose of the Board, both the official wording and from your point of view? Do you believe it is meeting that purpose? -What are some of the projects that you worked on?  -what changes or initiatives can the Board make?  -What are some of the biggest business challenges facing the DoD?  -what did your experience as US Comptroller General allow you to bring into the appointment to the Defense Business Board? What perspective do you believe you brought; what were you most “on alert” for? -what most surprised you in your service on the Board? Was it people- or process-based?   // US Comptroller General 98-08 - 15-year, non renewable term appointment, Government Accountability Office (audit institution, part of the legislative branch) //  -roles like this often don’t have a “rules manual” and you must create the role “your way” as you go. Did you find this to be the case? How did you adapt to the situation if so?  -you have a supposedly non partisan bureaucracy working for you as the GAO. How did you find that and how did information flow to you? What kind of decisions did you make? What were your main accomplishments at GSP?   // America In 2040: Still A Superpower? book //  -tell us about the book and your main premise or argument--reviews talk about “fiscal sanity” and government spending  -We think “America’s fine; we still have all the tools”, but what do you think about the constant underestimation of costs and overestimation of capabilities? eg. USS Gerald Ford setbacks...latest is unable to launch planes, $13B price tag for non-functional platform  -Will America still have the financial power to fund itself as a superpower?  -Do you believe space is an important theater for America to remain a superpower? What are other major security theaters?    Useful Links:  America In 2040: Still a Superpower? book on Amazon:  [NOT an affiliate link]   GAO website:  DFB website:   Disclaimer: We were not remunerated in any way by David Walker for discussing his book or any other topics.    OpEx Society: Talk to Cold Star:
State of Readiness author Joseph Paris is the inaugural guest on Season Four of the Cold Star Project. Joseph is also the founder of the Operational Excellence Society and Readiness Institute, and is the go-to expert for OpEx executives of large civilian and military organizations. In this conversation with fellow OpEx pro and Cold Star Project host Jason Kanigan, we discuss: why the typical OpEx executive focus on tactical cost-cutting rather than strategic capacity and revenue growth is a critical mistake what blocks you from having operational excellence in your organization (it's not a lack of TPS or process optimization) what to do about the common feeling of isolation within organizations as an OpEx professional the reason depending on yourself as the OpEx executive in your organization to develop training programs is job-killing wishful thinking and setting you up for failure why communication is often terribly bad within larger companies, and how you can positively guide your firm to becoming a true learning organization the problems we see in communication and learning in distributed organizations, particularly during the current global event forcing people to work remotely, and what to do about them OpEx killers such as not tracking further projects and successes beyond the initial one prompted by getting a training program.   Jason Kanigan is a member of the Board of Advisors of the Operational Excellence Society. Book a call with Jason to talk about OpEx in your organization with  If you want more information about how to become a high performance organization, get the free white paper here:   Joseph Paris talk at the first "Make Space Boring" virtual conference:  Joseph Paris interview in Season Two of the Cold Star Project:   OpEx Society:  Readiness Institute:  State of Readiness book (available on Amazon and linked to from this site):  These are not affiliate links.
Space and defense startups frequently have a tough time "being heard" in the field. Not only that, but these small companies struggle with learning the byzantine paths to discovering and connecting with prime contractors and government organizations who could be looking for their technical help. Katie Bilek co-founded govmates in 2015 to smooth the way and assist in making teaming connections. If you're a space or defense startup founder looking for help in developing these kinds of connections, listen in to our discussion. Cold Star Project host Jason Kanigan asks govmates' Katie Bilek: Why did you co-found Govmates? What need did you see, and what did it take to get the connections and support required? How does Govmates add value to the marketplace?  What problem does govmates solve? What background do you have that you feel empowered your decision? How does membership in Govmates work? What can members expect? Who is the right kind of person to be signing up for membership? What stage should their business be at? Is TS clearance a requirement for all members? What kind of mistakes do you see new members signing up making, that when corrected or avoided will help their company get seen more effectively and make better connections? It’s 10 years from now… how do you see Govmates in form and function? How has it grown and are there any changes in its strategic direction? Useful Links: govmates website: OpEx Society:  Get new episodes directly in your inbox:  Talk to Cold Star:
Dr. Narayan Prasad, COO of Satsearch, is my guest on this episode of the Cold Star Project. In an industry often frustrated by lack of funding, Narayan has helped guide Satsearch into becoming a truly commercial space business. But what differences are required, both in mindset and execution? Host Jason Kanigan asks Narayan: What led you to the founding of Satsearch? What was that process like and how did you know the market wanted something like that? Tell us about your discovery of what really works in business What top three or four errors do you consistently see startup founders make? Has the Satsearch platform evolved (similarly to NewSpace Hub) along the way?  What improvements have you made, and what do you intend to make? You’ve avoided investment capital despite it being offered to you… why?    Satsearch website:   OpEx Society:  Get new episodes directly in your inbox:  Talk to Cold Star:
Dr. Andrew Aldrin is back on the Cold Star Project and this time we're diving into the funding sources and direction for the space economy. What needs to happen and what should we be looking at? Does the Silicon Valley investment model fail in the space industry? Are there obvious next steps, or do we need to continue to guess what's on the horizon? Andy shares his valuable experience and perspective in this open discussion with Cold Star Project host Jason Kanigan.   We also touch on the ISU Center for Space Entrepreneurship's Graduate Certificate Commercial Space Program. Info on the program:  Previous appearances of Dr. Aldrin:   Challenges of Space Entrepreneurship:  How the Soviets Beat the Americans Into Space:  Graduate Certificate Commercial Space Program updates: OpEx Society:  Get new episodes directly in your inbox:  Talk to Cold Star:
Space Ventures Investors co-founder, managing director and partner Simon Drake is heavily involved in bringing the ability for regular people to invest in space companies. In his role as a space sector venture capitalist, he is able to pull data and see trends that help realizing this vision. In this episode of the Cold Star Project with host Jason Kanigan, Simon discusses: - What is your vision of regular people being able to invest in space? What partners are you working with? Can one small investor really make a difference? - What is stopping regular members of the public from investing in space companies? Why do we want the general public to be able to invest in space? - What have you found in your own research about the willingness of investors to put money into space companies? What are they looking for in terms of time to return, rate of return, companies or projects to invest in?   Risk level research graphic from Space Ventures Investors: - How do we avoid space investment by the public becoming a free-for-all driven by hype, so that there is solid value at the core?   South Sea Stock graphic from The Gloom, Boom & Doom Report: - What legal/regulatory issues have you found in the way of public investment in space? What differences have you seen between European and North American markets?  - Are there any “unexpected results” you predict from opening space investing up to the public?   Space Investment Interests Research Graphic from Space Ventures Investors:   Space Ventures Investors website:  Space Commodities Exchange website:  Lunar Resources Registry website:  Playlist:  OpEx Society:  Get new episodes directly in your inbox:  Talk to Cold Star:
Commander Tim Anderson is not only a US Naval Reserve officer with responsibilities in war planning, but is also in a defense contractor role managing ship repairs and modernization. In this interview hosted by Jason Kanigan of the Cold Star Project, Commander Anderson discusses how government and Department of Defense makes up its mind on spending, and how you can make use of that process.   We also dig deep into the potentially great impact of SpaceX Starship on the space industry: payload variants, areas of operation, effect on industry players and more. Why? The dramatic rise in cargo capacity offered and drop in launch and transportation costs promised--even if the numbers are nowhere near as rosy as predicted.  Tim Anderson is working on his Masters in Systems Engineering, Space Systems, at Embry-Riddle Aerotnautical University. This degree will confirm the practical knowledge he has from many years in the field. He has two papers in for peer review at the time of recording. Get new episodes directly in your inbox:  Talk to Cold Star:
Spaced Ventures co-founder Aaron Burnett is on the Cold Star Project to share how providing this platform for crowdsourced investment in space companies helps the industry grow. Host Jason Kanigan asks Aaron: Explain the value you believe you’re bringing to the space community with SV What was the experience of building the platform like? What have you learned and what is the most surprising thing you’ve experienced since the SV launch? Who are your ‘target users’? Tell us about your process, and any adjustments you’ve had to make What money levels are we talking about here? And time frames?    Spaced Ventures website:   Interview with Spaced Ventures co-founder J. Brant Arseneau: Get new episodes directly in your inbox: Talk to Cold Star:
Space Products and Innovation (SPiN) co-founder Ran Qedar is on the Cold Star Project to share his experience taking his space startup through the Techstars accelerator. Host Jason Kanigan asks Ran: What problem did potential customers in the space industry tell you they were experiencing that lead to a prototype product? SPiN's tagline is “Build a satellite like Lego”. This seems to match up pretty well with Cold Star's “Make Space Boring” mantra. Tell us what your intention with that phrasing is, and where it could lead to What has your work with Techstars taught you? What stood out as a key factor that prior to working with them you would probably not have given as much importance to? Techstars has strong messaging about “ecosystem development”. What has that translated in for SPiN? What quality do co-founders need and what help to balance the team?  Who would you point to as having been integral to deepening your understanding of business and startups? How is the European hardware space startups scene? How are startups supported?    SPiN website:   Get new episodes directly in your inbox:  Talk to Cold Star:
Barclay's Bank UK Start-Up Entrepreneur 2018 for the progress and achievements of Oxford Space Systems, and founder of Oxford Dynamics, Mike Lawton joins us on the Cold Star Project. With host Jason Kanigan, Mike discusses the challenges of developing early stage space startups, including: Other than the obvious lifeblood of cash, what other measures have you noticed as important in early stage, high tech businesses? You say you get “things wrong slightly less often than I get them right”. When do you know you’ve “gotten things wrong”? What are the indicators and how have you learned to see them sooner? What do you believe drives technological innovation? Eg. marketplace vs personal interest? What other organizations are you watching in UK NewSpace? You mention “the 'dark arts' of raising finance for tech businesses”... explain what this means.    Oxford Dynamics website:    Get new episodes directly in your inbox:   Talk to Cold Star:
Head of Strategy and Managing Director Venture Capital at OHB Group since 2013 Egbert van der Veen is on the Cold Star Project. Prior to this role, Egbert was Project Lead at the German Aerospace Center for 4 years, working with DLR, ESA, EC and writing advisory reports on technology development trends. Continuing our discussion with investors who fund space companies, host Jason Kanigan asks: Your scientific topic while working at DLR was forecasting disruptive space technologies. What did you learn and how does that influence your point of view out in the business world? How did you land the role of Managing Director of OHB VC? Your scientific career focused on innovation management in addition to space engineering. What does that allow you to bring to investing analysis and decisions that other VCs might not have? Tell us about a project or two you did with DLR and their results. What does that experience make you watch out for in future projects? In your “scouting” role, what do you look for in space companies? What would be the ideal discovery? What has your experience with space companies been like? What state do they typically arrive at your firm? Any insights on the point of view of the founders themselves? Internal operations of companies seeking investment? Their achievement or lack thereof of product-market fit? A lot of VCs talk about “capturing the value chain”, yet this is a concept many founders miss in their laser focus on their technical capability. What advice do you have for space founders in regards to taking a step back and viewing the whole value chain?    OHB Group Venture Capital website: Get new episodes directly in your inbox:  Talk to Cold Star:
Finsophy PBC Founder & CEO Jason Aspiotis is on the Cold Star Project. With host Jason Kanigan, he's sharing his vision for retail investors to invest in the space economy while using banking services they would already be using anyway. Jason answers:  What is your long-term view for Space economy growth? What are the driving factors for economic growth?  What is the role of the retail investor in the Space economy? What are some ways retail investors could become more involved in supporting the Space economy in the near future? What is the role of banks and other large and/or regulated financial institutions (FIs) in the Space economy? What barriers of entry exist to getting banks and large FIs more vested in deploying capital into the Space economy? What could the US government, or other governments, do to incentivize larger participation by private capital sources?    Finsophy website:   Space Vault website:   National Space Development Corp white paper by Jason Aspiotis:   Get new episodes directly in your inbox:  Talk to Cold Star:
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