105 of the 2,300 startups exhibiting at Web Summit 2022 participated in the highly successful PITCH competition. Among them 2 Luxembourgish startups: Lodago and Mission Space. And for the first time, one of them reached the semi-final of the Web Summit startup competition. Ksenia Moskalenko, CEO and co-founder of the startup Mission Space, tells us about her incredible experience and shares several key elements for a successful pitch.
How was the Web Summit?
The Web Summit was massive and impressive. This year there were around 45,000 attendees from startups ranging from pre-seed to scale-ups from verticals like biotech, web3, crypto, fintech, and a little bit of space tech. There were a lot of activities for startups to engage in, like the PITCH competition, one of the most elite and highly competitive contests, startup masterclasses led by top-notch serial entrepreneurs and founders, mentor hours where you were able to get 1:1 advice from the highest leadership position people and 1:1 investor meetings.
We were there every day and boy, were we busy. Besides the PITCH competition, my personal highlight was watching Tim Draper speak in person and filming the newest edition of Meet the Drapers show live in Lisbon. He conveyed all the right messages to founders like care and work for your client, fire and hire fast and look for the best talent and solve real-world problems.
We were also participating in the Luxembourg delegation agenda where we had a chance to visit the Portuguese startups, attend our reception, and have fun at the Night Summit.
What was also very exciting and rewarding, was the support we got from our delegation, who were there with us every step of the way! I believe that Web Summit is very much beneficial in terms of exposure to national companies and technology and having a Luxembourgish presence at an event of such magnitude is crucial for showcasing and being proud of all the innovations we have in Luxembourg.
What did you expect from the startup competition?
Honestly, I did not expect much. What I knew about this competition is that only the world’s leading early-stage startups battle it out onstage and I was humbly hoping Mission Space would advance to the preliminary pitch battle rounds.
This year the competition was in partnership with Siemens and brought together the world’s most promising companies, and 105 of the 2,300 startups exhibiting at Web Summit 2022 took part in the PITCH competition over three days in Lisbon’s Altice Arena.
I knew that the companies who get through attract a lot of recognition and brand awareness, and with that come investor and partner connections, but of course, since space tech was not exactly the theme vertical of the Summit, I did not hope for much. Overall, out of 800+ applications, they selected 105 for the first battle which took place on November 2nd and I was very surprised but happy to receive an email with our spot in it.
How did you prepare for this?
I knew that this would be the general audience that has no idea what space weather is, and that was true. When I started with my opening question of how many of you know what space weather is, out of the 4500+ people audience, roughly 20 people raised their hands!
So clearly, I needed to have a compelling story that would relate to attendees beyond the scope of upstream space. I wanted to raise awareness for such an important issue as space radiation, and how infrastructures both in space and on the ground suffer massive damages and losses from it on a monthly basis, but at the same time I did not want to scare everyone with another terrifying story of how we are all doomed if a geomagnetic storm hits us today.
So I took some time to create a hook that would catch the attention of my audience and take them on a journey of how our society’s needs contributed to the evolution of our technology. And what would be better than the loss of 40 out of 49 Starlink satellites this year because of a geomagnetic storm – a familiar story from the media but with a different angle from the science of the phenomena?
I already had a very good experience at the Baltic’s most popular conference TechChill this year in Riga, where I was the finalist in the 50 founders battle and won several prizes when pitching at the finals (there were 6 companies selected out of 250+). “While all startups did great, Mission Space proved to be the most successful by getting into the Top 5 and receiving a special prize of 1 ETH from Gravity Team”. We knew what to expect, yet I did not hope for much and especially not for the main 20k people fitting stage.
How many times did you have to pitch?
I had to pitch once at the PITCH groups (10 groups of 10 startups) and once at the semi-finals at the main stage.
Did you evolve your pitch from one session to the next?
I did not have an opportunity to change the narrative, just put the necessary accents at certain parts of our story that I wanted the audience to take with them. Basically, what people heard in the first round was the same story they heard in the semi-finals. For the competition in general, of course, I evolved my pitch and made it less technical and more appealing and inspiring to the general audience.
What do you remember about this experience? What were the emotions you felt afterwards?
I was not too worried at the first round on day 1, simply because the stage was not big, I knew my pitch because I practised it and I knew that I needed to appeal to people and not just talk about the spectrometer technology for measuring space weather and its economic impacts.
Out of 800+ startups overall, there was a 1% chance I would pitch at the semi-finals, so I wanted to present like it was my last time pitching. Even now, I do not like calling it pitching, because to me it’s all about sharing my story and connecting with people rather than memorizing a speech and then presenting it.
I was the first pitch of the competition and of the day, my spot was 10 am and I was first. I had my teammates and our Luxembourg delegation, Amrita Singh and Alban Hyka cheering for me in the front row – very empowering and gave me a feeling of safety and support.
I could not believe it when they announced the same day the 8 lucky startups that made it to the semi finals and Mission Space’s name was the first one they called.
I wanted to jump on the stage and scream because such recognition and opportunity is once in a lifetime chance. When they announced that for the first time in history this semi-final would take place on the main stage (20,000 people attending the opening ceremony just the day before), I could not be more excited, but nervous at the same time. I knew that the audience would be massive, but not as massive as it actually was.
The panel of 10 judges was also there on stage, and I had to pitch both to them, and to the audience. With the lights on, I could see there were thousands of people there, all listening and watching me. I was nervous up until the moment I was called on stage and started my presentation. I tried to enjoy every single second of being on stage and it felt so unbelievable. After I stepped inside, I felt ecstatic and already backstage, had investors and partners coming to me and congratulating me on a good pitch.
Being streamed live on the center stage was huge for exposing us to international media, investors, and partners. Although we did not win, we won more than just the crown – we won the exposure, attention, and most importantly public speaking experience that will stay with me forever from which I learned and will take on with myself. This recognition is also allowing us momentum as we approach the closure of our seed round. We are looking to close our fundraising round this year and there is still room for new investors to get on board. Mission Space is the next big thing!
Last question: can you pitch Mission Space in a few lines?
Based in Luxembourg, Mission Space is focused on providing highly accurate space weather radiation intelligence using a combination of outside data sources and its own detectors in low Earth orbit. With our advanced forecasting models on the ground and sensors in space, we redefine monitoring of the space environment and provide a new level of radiation intelligence. Our space weather cloud services enable both space and ground-based businesses to measure the potential impacts of solar storms.
Review Ksenia’s pitch at the Web Summit, starting at 7 hours 11 minutes 👇