Tim Deaver, vice president of strategic solutions at Mynaric, recently spoke with ExecutiveBiz about the cost of innovation driving significant challenges to stay above water in the federal and technology landscapes as well as the company’s core values that drive its culture and growth strategy into 2023 during the latest Executive Spotlight interview.
You can read the full interview with Tim Deaver below.
ExecutiveBiz: What can you tell us about Mynaric’s recent growth initiatives? What do you hope to accomplish and any new markets that you’re keeping an eye on in the federal sector?
Tim Deaver: “Mynaric is a unique company with our global company headquarters in Munich, Germany. We also have our U.S. headquarters in California and a business development and customer integration team located in Washington DC. Our space terminals are focused on many critical areas in the U.S. market so building these relationships and having key leaders located on this side of the Atlantic is important to those customers.
We want to ensure that we’re responsive to our customers’ needs, which is also why we have built up our U.S. presence. It’s those activities that build trust when we get out and talk to the customers about what they currently need for their respective missions.
Our most common product is our terminal designed for intersatellite communications and, in the future, for space-to-ground applications. Due to our work with the Space Development Agency (SDA), the terminal is designed to be interoperable with the other satellite optical communication links. We also have a terminal that was originally designed for air-to-air applications, but we are expanding its capabilities to include air-to-ground and ground-to-ground applications.
More recently, we also decided to reintroduce our ground-to-space terminal capabilities. We had a successful demonstration program a few years ago, but the market just wasn’t ready. Sometimes, it’s just about market timing and getting all those pieces together to establish a product line that brings the entire capability from space to air to ground.
For our customers, the advantage of buying our products is that we design for interoperability between all of our products. That’s a significant thing at the moment in this market as there are many different standards for optical communications products.
Our leadership has a very high target in mind for Mynaric’s growth. We are publicly traded in both the international stock exchanges and on Nasdaq. We do our own investments in expanding our production innovation and manufacturing capabilities that I mentioned earlier.
In June 2021, we built a production facility just outside of Munich, Germany to produce two thousand terminals per year. That’s quite a growth path for the next few years. We want to be producing large numbers to reduce the costs to our customers and ensure the product meets their needs. This requires a lot of dialogue with our customers.
For more context, one of the challenges for laser communications has always been deciding on the standards to use. You can imagine with physicists and scientists, there’s always one advantage of one thing over another. The big question became about which standards are going to be the most widely adopted.
As the larger mega constellations started coming out and we started talking about laser communications, it was joked about that the government has done all this work to set standards, but it might end up being a commercial person who goes out and buys 300 to 500 terminals and sets the standard for the market.
The SDA came in and started working with various suppliers in the market who had developed communication terminals. Their question was what standard can we come up with that will keep costs low and not be proprietary?
SDA took the time to work with industry. Mynaric was one of the earlier participants in the development of the agency’s standard for Tranche 0. That has continued to evolve and now the SDA’s standard for Tranche 1 (Version 3.0) is out and publicly available.
ExecutiveBiz: With the cost of innovation creating very significant challenges in the government contracting sector, how do you and your team adjust to the financial demands involved to stay ahead of the curve in the technology sector?
Tim Deaver: “Our capabilities to perform what we call ‘industrialized laser communications’ has been bringing the costs down significantly. The main reason for that is that you’re producing savings in several areas.
For instance, buying larger quantities of supplies will usually lead to a lower price from the supplier. More importantly, there’s a big learning curve when you build, design and operationalize the first production factory as we have at Mynaric. There’s a significant time commitment to set up that first unit and design the process.
As you look at the larger LEO constellations that are going up, they’ve done the exact same thing. It used to take almost two months to test one satellite and now they’re manufacturing two or three per day out of their factories. We are developing the capability to produce multiple space and air terminals per day to keep up with the demand.
As I mentioned, Mynaric has designed a production facility just outside of Munich, Germany to produce two thousand terminals per year. That’s quite a growth path! Our plan is to be producing those numbers every year.
One thing about the proliferated LEO constellations and our customers, they are always driving innovation. I also mentioned earlier about having a two and a half gigabits per second kind of standard. Most of our customers are wanting ten, twenty, or one hundred gigabits per second and we continue to see major growth in the market.
Obviously, that’s leading to our technological evolution. For example, Mynaric has a future team for technology that has helped drive our production capabilities to drive our own growth in the industry and for our nation as well.”
ExecutiveBiz: What are the core values that are important to Mynaric’s culture? How has your team developed its workflow and ability to drive success in such a competitive market?
Tim Deaver: “One of the things that we foster at Mynaric is that we want to have that creativity and flexibility in our business to adjust and bring in new ideas. Mynaric has some of the most talented people in the optical communications industry.
I always joke telling a new hire that I worked hard for my engineering degree, but a lot of our talent makes me look like I graduated from kindergarten. A lot of our meetings end up being at a PhD type college course on the technology behind the actual optical communications.
We have a lot of people who are very passionate about laser communications and have dedicated their lives to that mission. For doctorate degrees, I say that you can’t swing a cat at our headquarters without hitting a PhD.
However, you also need to bring it out of the scientific world, into the application world and the production world. It’s important to have the people who are used to the fast-paced and dynamic environment.
A lot of people think everyone at Mynaric is German, but my colleagues represent more than 40 different nationalities. We’re about as diverse in as a company can be in our space with people coming from Belgium, Greece, Austria, Sweden, India, etc.
It’s across the entire industry that we have more openings than qualified candidates to fill those roles. From a workforce standpoint, we often talk about a supply chain shortage. I think there is just as much a talent workforce shortage that slows things down as much as any other challenge.
A lot of the electronic components and technical aspects just don’t have enough people to work on them. We’re always recruiting, but this is ultimately a global problem.”