Visites d'entreprises
(From l. to r.) Carlo Thelen, CEO of the Chamber of Commerce and Gary Paul, director of Bradford Space

Formed in 2015 as Deep Space Industries to develop technologies to support asteroid mining missions, the team was acquired in 2019 by Bradford Space, a high-tech global developer and manufacturer of satellite control sub-systems and components. Based in the United States of America, the Netherlands and in Belval in Luxembourg, the Luxembourg site is responsible for the design and production of the deep-space avionics and Comet water thrusters. With new technical resources, a renewed direction, and early support from the Luxembourg Space Agency, the product lines were expanded and made available to a wider range of commercial customers. The successful Comet water thruster had its design updated to take advantage of European supply chains, while the Avionics stack broke new ground in affordable electronics. Today, these products, fully designed in Luxembourg by a multifunctional team, responsible for both development and manufacture, are being manufactured and shipped to spacecraft integrators all over the world. Interview with Gary Paul, Director.

(Visited 13 October 2023)

Your greatest success?

In my pre-Luxembourg life, organizing an urgent, ad-hoc logistics network to deliver critically-needed medicine from Australia to the island nation of Tonga, in the South Pacific ocean. In my Luxembourg life, keeping the community spirit and operations of the company active/working smoothly during COVID-19 while ensuring the physical and mental safety of my team. We went fully remote but remained linked by a strong digital infrastructure as well as regular check-in/social events during work hours to keep us connected during the lockdowns.

A major failure?

Moving to Luxembourg one month before the pandemic hit, maybe! I didn’t see the casemates for three years! Professionally speaking, I feel I have never perfected hiring. In my previous role, we hired one individual who showed up for a day, promised to come back, and started sending us what turned out to be fake doctor’s notes for two months. A scam employee who had nonetheless passed all of our checks. Both my old company and my new company have improved their procedures, but I still consider hiring in general an unsolved challenge. I don’t want to blame job applicants or Luxembourg’s laws or anything that’s typically blamed, I think it’s a much deeper core problem that needs to be called out: how do we trust complete strangers with our entrepreneurial children? How do we find those who have the same passions and focus as us?

Future projects?

For Bradford Space, we’re pushing forward into deep space missions. We believe we’re close to the number one supplier in Europe for deep space satellite subsystems, and we’re excited to keep moving beyond LEO.

For me personally, I’m mostly occupied with Bradford Space. I’d love to leverage connections in Luxembourg/Europe to create consortiums for big projects within space sector. One of my favourite sayings is “a rising tide lifts all boats”. It’s an incredibly harmonious atmosphere in the sector here in Luxembourg. That’s not to say there isn’t competition, but I think we have a unique opportunity to build big things together, in ways that cannot be done in other locations like the US.

What do you think differentiates you from your business competitors?

It’s very cliched to say “the team” but I don’t care, I have to say it! Just a truly incredible group of engineers here at Bradford. From an organizational perspective, we have what a lot of other start-ups and SMEs have: space heritage. Our products have been to space and they’ve worked well. In the space sector, that’s so powerful to say to a customer “hey, we get it. We’ve done it”. Of course every company will get space heritage eventually, if their product is good, but we can simply say to the customer “you don’t have to wait several years to see if it’ll maybe work. Our products are up there right now. Your needs can be fulfilled right now.”  

Your vision of entrepreneurship? A model?

There are no models to disruption, by definition. It’s naff, but you disrupt someone else’s model, otherwise you’re just…using a model, you’re not making or doing anything new. But something to keep in mind is that the idea of a solo genius is a lie. There are brilliant marketers who have convinced the world that they made something solo, but try it yourself and you’ll realise it’s not true at all. My vision of entrepreneurship is to quickly find the people who share your vision and build something together.

An advice to give to a budding entrepreneur?

Network, network, network. Get out and meet people, get to know them. Find the ones you like and ask honest questions about their plans, then build and collaborate with them. Be prepared to accept unexpected roles in the company you create. You might be technical, so you become the CTO and your co-founder becomes CEO – it’s not a downgrade, it makes sense. Maybe you’re better with numbers and not so good with marketing, so become CFO, your co-founder becomes CMO, and you hire a new CEO after several months or years. Keep your ego in the marketing materials if you must, but don’t impose yourself on a bad role fit.  

What difficulties do you currently face? How do you overcome them?

As I said earlier, hiring continues to be a difficult issue. Luxembourg’s cost of living does make it hard to attract talent sometimes. Like all companies, we faced supply chain disruptions during COVID-19 and across the last year due to the various conflicts. We’ve had to become very flexible, fast-moving, and adaptable to stay ahead and keep our products flowing.

PHOTOS Corinne Briault et Bradford Space