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At the age of 16 he invented a space startup

“I want to create a global network of ground stations that will communicate with satellites in low orbit”. This statement is not from a reputable scientist or experienced entrepreneur. Its author is 16-year-old Filip Kocián, who tells me this sentence with an absolutely serious expression on his face in a renowned Nepalese restaurant in the middle of Zlín. I wonder if I heard well, but Filip isn’t kidding.

The young Zlín native has already made clear plans at the age of sixteen and he also wants to build his own space project. Everything is based on a wealth of knowledge and experience, even if it is only a year of identity card owner.

At first glance, the ambitious gymnasium player looks very confident and does not park. Though he might have reason to do so. For his short life he has a well-equipped curriculum vitae. A year ago, he wrote for his own interest in the Brno company SAB Aerospace, which manufactures components for space missiles of the European Space Agency. She accepted it and Filip officially became the youngest employee in the Czech space industry.

SAB Aerospace works directly from Brno and has similar ambitions as Filip Kocián. He is also involved in the Plato telescope project, which starts in 2026. In another project, the company also participated in the mission of the Rosalind Franklin, formerly known as ExoMars 2020, which should be heading to Mars next year.

Filip Kocián confidently describes that he has had excellent results at the school, and he also manages to go through various conferences and participate in all sorts of projects and competitions. A brilliant child, one might say. But even the expression child does not fit in his case, because he is definitely not a typical 16-year-old. “I was influenced by several things. Partly education, partly constant effort to stand out from the crowd and partly a lot of information and knowledge, ”says Kocián above a plate of one of the Nepalese specialties.

When he was smaller, he read the whole newspaper twice a week, from start to finish. He is listening to podcasts fast. While most would only hear incomprehensible chatter, Kocian’s 2.7-times accelerated playback suits. “Oh, really. But it’s good! How else to listen to a two-hour interview in 40 minutes? ”He responds to my disbelieving expression.

It is evident that knowledge has played a major role in his life. In addition to listening to podcasts, Kocián attended lectures, received two internships at the observatory in Valašské Meziříčí, attended six weekends at cosmonautical seminars, and participated in the Mars Expedition contest, for the first time as a visitor to a tour to SAB Aerospace in Brno.

He claims that there were times when he read up to sixty books a year, now prosecutes two to three months. He names everything from the biography of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos to the story of former Israeli Prime Minister Simon Peres. He is not so surprising by his ambivalent relationship to school at best. “I don’t suffer there, but nothing extra adds me. I can imagine not going to college. It’s not a dogma for me, I don’t like it, ”says Kocián, who joined the fifth grade at the grammar school this year, ie the first year of“ secondary”.

Although his speech often includes references to mathematics and physics, he is said to have gradually crystallized three areas of interest – marketing, business and technology. In addition to his other activities, he also competes in climbing. “It’s one of the things that still keeps me normal, and it’s one of the times I don’t work,” he says with a smile. You would probably expect such a message from the top manager, but Kocián takes it as his daily bread.

Under the lid of the space industry

SAB Aerospace chief Petr Kapoun, who accepted him into his company a year ago, mainly highlighted Filip’s technical knowledge for Czech Radio. At first glance, it may seem a pity that he is dedicated to managing Facebook pages, copywriting or helping to organize workshops at SAB Aerospace.

“I had an idea where SAB could move and at the same time they are the activities I can do at SAB,” says the youngest employee, admitting that he has no qualifications for more technical positions yet. However, he is convinced that marketing will change in the coming years – especially in the sense that marketing experts will speak into the production of a thing, not just sales – and that is the opportunity.

However, it will now reach the core of the entire SAB Aerospace business. “When we finished the dispenser, I put on my suit and went to see my colleague in the cleanroom,” says Filip, referring to the part of the Vega rocket that SAB Aerospace had just constructed in Brno. It will fly into space from a spaceport in French Guiana already in April, and for this moment, according to his words, looks forward.

The acquired knowledge, which in a year gave him immediate contact with the space industry, is transformed into the just mentioned own idea. “Every satellite needs to send data back to Earth – that’s what ground stations do. Until now, each operator had to deal with the station owners themselves. We would like to be an operator, ”Filip explained his future project, which responds to the fact that the number of satellites launched into orbits is growing significantly. He is working on the startup together with Jakub Lajmon, also a young entrepreneur.

A startup that changes the world

When Philip and I were writing on the Velvet Revolution anniversary, I was surprised by the message in the conversation: “I feel that some of the links on November 17th are unclear and I take it that the best idea is to focus on the future.” he does not look into the past and at times his constant focus on the future is very visible. When he gets the classic question about his greatest success, he says without hesitation that the greatest is yet to come.

He has no clear idea of what he wants to do after high school. So, if he ever comes to him – he is also looking at foreign secondary schools. “I am attracted to the United States and I would like to start a Silicon Valley startup that will change the world”, he says ideally.

In which industry he wants to change the world, Filip Kocián is already clear. He either stays with the universe, but he is also interested in vertical agriculture, mobility or energy. For this reason, he certainly will not stay in his native Zlín. The eleventh largest city in the Czech Republic is said to be a small town, and has spent a large part of its time in Prague and Brno. He is constantly educating himself, so he would like to find an internship in the field of crisis management or corporate transformation in the near future.

Tax for success

The fact that Philip has interests that are unusual for his age, however, poses a number of problems. Typically with time – he claims he has no free. While his classmates spend him together, he mostly works. “Of course, it does not benefit social relationships, but a system that is not made for exceptions like myself adds problems”, he confidently admits.

He adds that family support also has its limits, but he is very grateful to her. “I think my parents are happy to be realizing themselves, and they are probably proud of me. But if, for example, I don’t want to go to school for a conference, it’s negotiation”, Filip says. “And when I get up at four to work in Prague in the morning, I pack my headlamp so I don’t wake my brother”, he adds with a smile.

Family support can be an important factor. “If you have an individual curriculum or your dad is a millionaire who pays for all the activities, it’s probably not that hard to be active”, he says, this is simply not his case. He met similar people in the High School Student of the Year competition, which recognizes active high school students.

So I ask Filip about the last thing. If he is active, why does he not realize similarly more young people? He concludes our speech with a simple pragmatism that is truly intrinsic to him: “The Gaussian curve is probably the answer”.

Also published on Medium.

Published inStartups
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