We talked to founder William Kowalski to learn more about Atomos Nuclear and Space in June 2018…
Tell us about your company. What problem are you trying to solve?
Atomos Nuclear and Space is building a sustainable, scalable in-space transportation network enabled by our commercial nuclear power and propulsion systems. Targeting businesses and agencies launching new space assets, Atomos is developing spacecraft purpose-built to autonomously rendezvous with and move other objects in space. Our spacecraft dock with customer payloads in low orbits and deliver them to their final destinations in higher Earth-orbits and beyond. Leveraging nuclear fission systems is what sets Atomos apart from competitors. Extended operational lifetimes, expanded power budgets, and faster transfer times are just a few of the benefits made possible by our nuclear technologies.
How did your company get started?
Atomos has been under development as an idea since 2013, but when Vanessa Clark (co-founder, CEO, and space nuclear engineer) was approached by investors in 2017, it quickly became more than that. William Kowalski (co-founder, CFO) and Brandon Seifert (co-founder, CMO) joined the team shortly thereafter, and Atomos transitioned from an after-hours project into an accelerator-galvanized startup. Vanessa realized the commercial opportunities for safe, scalable nuclear technologies in space as she researched the topic for the German Space Agency in 2013, and became determined to bring her ideas to market. Over several years, she tracked the technology, community, players, and regulatory scene, and in 2017, interests aligned and Vanessa formally founded Atomos with co-founders William and Brandon.
Why is your team well positioned to solve the problem you’re tackling?
We love space exploration with a passion and believe that the economic and social value space offers Earth is astronomical (please forgive the pun). We are fully committed to building a business that enables and enhances other space-based businesses. Our founding team has a strong background in long-term, high-value projects in aerospace and other high-tech markets, as well as space startups. Vanessa Clark managed over $400M in subcontracts, overseeing the development and testing campaign of the propulsion systems for Lockheed Martin’s Orion spacecraft and spent years designing nuclear spacecraft for the German Space Agency and working in advanced concepts at Airbus. William Kowalski has financial and corporate governance experience and worked on cash flow planning, tax and risk mitigation, and return optimization for a wealth management team. Brandon Seifert has experience from time spent in previous space and tech startups in scaling and team building, commercial and government business development, and developing/executing high-tech sales and marketing strategies. We’re a well-balanced team of aerospace and space nuclear, finance and policy, and operations and sales/marketing, and we’re building a solid team around us that adds even more to the mix.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned along the way?
There is no guidebook, no lighted pathway, no set of steps you can and must follow to find your way. Having such a large, open space in which to build your business is exciting, but can also be a bit intimidating. Having solid teammates and advisors with experience creating something from nothing is invaluable, and any tools you can pick up along the way to enhance your knowledge and improve your ability to confidently build your business will help you immensely.
What resources do you rely on to help your company grow?
First and foremost, our friends, mentors and partners. No one builds a company alone. But resources that help us have more valuable relationships with these people, like Shoobx, have become a necessity to us, providing us with strategic and tactical insights, knowledge on complex operations, and reliable ways to save a lot of time with key logistical activities.