Rohit Jha is one of the new wave of astropreneurs. Three years ago, he co-founded Transcelestial, a Singapore-based space and communications company. It plans to build a laser network in space and combine this with small (or ‘nano’) satellites. The aim: to provide ultra-fast broadband technology on earth. The planned broadband speed is up to 100 gigabytes per second – enough to fuel a new, hyper-fast generation of broadband internet access.
It’s a competitive industry. Add to that the challenges – logistical, intellectual, financial – of running a start-up. These grow exponentially when half of your business isn’t even on this planet.
Fortunately, Jha’s early career has prepared him for the challenges ahead. When he joined NatWest Markets as a graduate trainee, he was a technology analyst. The job involved analysing probabilities and exploring every possible angle for optimum outcomes, often in challenging and fast-changing conditions.
In trading, tiny margins − of fractions of a second − can make the difference between billions of dollars in profits or losses. Much depends on the algorithms − powerful computers running complex mathematical formulas for trading. The financial sector is a test bed for innovative technology.
"It was the most technical business team in the organisation, at the forefront of what was possible in technology,” Jha says. “I was fascinated by algorithmic and electronic trading. I was really lucky to be surrounded by very capable people – and the team was much more than the sum of the individuals in it."
After four years at NatWest Markets, Jha was ready for a new challenge. "I'd always wanted to start something on my own," he says. "My background is in electronics and computers. I'd also wanted to get back into hardware and move towards space tech innovation."
At university, Jha had worked on robotics, human-computer interaction and Singapore's first satellite. When he left NatWest Markets in 2015, he took a year out to focus on studies – the laws of physics and working on the edge of what is possible with current technology. He had an idea. “I started talking to an organisation that is looking at how we can send a satellite to our nearest star system," he says.
When Jha co-founded Transcelestial, no one could accuse him of thinking small or inside the box. Or indeed, the solar system.
"We wanted to build a company that solves the problem of how to communicate data back from a star system," he says. “We want to provide a much more scalable backbone infrastructure for the internet for the next 50 years of terrestrial and deep-space connectivity.”
One of the first industries that Jha is looking to work with is the financial sector. "A lot of the personal connections I have are from my time working in the FX industry," he says. "They’re invaluable now. And my knowledge of things like how undersea cable connectivity works is something I’ve been able to bring to my own company."
Contacts and connections
Over the coming years, Jha can use an analytical approach to explore the limitless possibilities of space. Who knows how many young graduates will be inspired to follow in his footsteps?