Before we even had a name for it, the Gemini Incubator started as a small idea to help teams take their prize-winning hackathon solutions and turn them into real, financially sustainable projects. We partnered with NASA Space Apps to run this as an experiment in the 5 Australian Space Apps Challenge events in early 2017 — and this is where Gemini was born.

During the hackathon, we quickly learned an important lesson: not everyone wants to become an entrepreneur. One of the participants who stuck around despite not being interested in turning his idea into a business was Louis des Landes.

Louis warned me of this at the beginning of the hackathon, and when the weekend was over he told me a couple of things that had a big impact on how we approached building the Gemini Incubator.

Firstly, he actually enjoyed getting exposure to the entrepreneurial concepts we included in our workshops during the hackathon. Secondly, he explained to me that some people just want to work on cool stuff with cool people, don’t want to start a business, and that’s ok. This seemingly simple and obvious point was one that I’d overlooked entirely and has since stuck with me so much that we built it into the fabric of MoonshotX and the Gemini Incubator as they evolved.

Louis des Landes

Further, Louis became one of our most active members of our MoonshotX community Slack group. Soon after the hackathon I recommended him to Flavia Tata Nardini, CEO of Fleet Space Technology, and after interviewing, Louis received a job offer. He then packed his bags and moved with his wife interstate, to Adelaide.

I consider this our most important success story yet.

We strive to cultivate space and deep-tech innovation communities in cities around the world, and to create strong relationships between them. Most accelerator programs and events focus entirely on cultivating entrepreneurs and startups, but most people out there aren’t going to start a business — they’re looking to sign up to an inspiring vision, join an amazing team, and do incredible things. We’ve designed our Gemini Incubator to become a global community inclusive of many individuals beyond aspiring entrepreneurs because there is much more to a successful innovation ecosystem than those that lead it.

Below is Louis’ story.

I first heard about MoonshotX as the primary sponsor of the NASA Space Apps Challenge in Melbourne. I had done the hackathon in a previous year, and Moonshot X took it over in 2017 in Melbourne, while coordinating special prizes in the other Challenges happening across Australia.

I originally was a bit on the fence about attending the hackathon, particularly as I was working full time, and the previous year was a little lack luster — it was run by a hackathon group, and the space part of it was rather incidental. To hear a space start up accelerator was running it encouraged me to attend still, as I was aiming to find work in the industry.

I enjoyed the hackathon itself — while a large part of the hackathon was focused on the business case, I enjoy actually building things so spent a large chunk of my time doing a site mockup for our teams product — even though it wasn’t used in the actual pitch at the end.

Throughout the hackathon, Troy (MoonshotX founder) ran various sessions with people in the industry from around the globe, and I was taking notes on the various Australian startups that were mentioned, including Gilmore Space and Fleet Space Technologies. I was only planning to check them out and maybe apply for a job if something good appeared, but after a chat with Troy, he mentioned that Flavia of Fleet Space was specifically looking for good Software Engineers and offered to introduce me after seeing my work during the hackathon.

After a few weeks I found myself moving to Adelaide with an exciting new space career, working with Flavia and her growing team at Fleet Space.

Moving interstate was a tough decision — I’d been in the Melbourne area since I was three, but my wife and I had been considering a change anyway, and to get in on the ground floor for the burgeoning space industry really was an offer too good to refuse. It’s been every bit as challenging and rewarding as I hoped, and Adelaide isn’t too bad itself.

I’ve worked at both extremes of company sizes over my career, from multinational corporations, to small family businesses, to universities. Startups are a different beast again. Targets change, staff turnover can be high, job security is very dependent on your own skills being relevant — so put on your multitasking hat! It has never been boring, and it won’t get boring any time soon. I’d been curious to work in a startup — but knew it would take something special for me to take the risk. I couldn’t be happier with my decision!

I’ve never been keen on project management let alone business management, and with the Australian space industry being next to non existent until only a few years ago, I was strongly considering moving overseas to pursue the career I wanted.

Starting my own business would have led me too far from doing the work I love — getting down and dirty with the code! Today, with numerous space startups around the tide is turning and opportunities are available. Being a part of the MoonshotX community can really help you prepare for and lock on to these opportunities.

If you’re looking to break in to the space industry in Australia right now, networking is key. It’s small, so all the startups know of each other, even the competitors. Go to hackathons, meetups, and job exhibitions. Talk to people. Maybe work on some open source space related software (Check out libcsp or KubOs!). Consider joining the Gemini Incubator to brush up on your soft skills while meeting the key leaders and employers of the community.

Show you have a passion for space!

— Louis des Landes, Satellite Software Engineer at Fleet Space Technologies

Louis and the Fleet Space team

If you’re looking to join an inspiring team and to meet interesting people changing the world, then you need to apply for the Gemini Incubator today.