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With 25,000 attendees and a variety of talks, workshops, and side events, this year’s Slush conference was a success, and so was the Japan Booth at the event. This year, it had featured three companies looking into the exploration of space and the moon, as well as employee happiness and sustainability here on Earth.

“I was ready for a strong response to our offering but I didn’t think I’d end up with so much work — goodbye, weekend,” said Syed Mujtaba Ishaq, sustainability and collaboration architect at Unipos. “It was very inspirational, I met a lot of great people and companies.”

Already quite popular in Japan, Unipos is a platform that facilitates recognition of employees inside the company. Anyone can send recognition messages along with points to their colleagues to show their appreciation; at the end of the month, the points can be spent to donate to the cause of the employer’s choice.

“We’re always measured against our direct deliverables — but that only makes for 60% of our activities,” Ishaq said. “So much of our time every day is spent helping others out and supporting direct or indirect team members. That has a direct positive economic impact in the organisation, and generates a positive culture, so why isn’t it looked into? We help highlight that beautifully on all levels, from the employees to the managers and all the way to C-level.”

Unipos is already working with more than 300+ customers globally and has a number of pilot projects lined up across Europe as a result of Slush. Ishaq considers Europe “the leader when it comes to sustainability” and praises the effort that founders and managers make to extend positive impact beyond the office.

The sky is not the limit

The two space-related startups in the Japan Booth — ispace and Axelspace — also have received a lot of interest from potential partners and consumers.

ispace, a startup working on Lunar exploration missions to be launched in 2021 and 2023, has already established European presence with an office in Luxembourg.

“We have a ‘Lunar yard’ in our European office, with some rocks and craters that we’ve built ourselves, and there we test the navigation systems of our lunar rover,” said Maia Haas, communications officer at ispace.

Most of the development of the launcher and rover technology is done in the office in Japan, Haas explained, while the European team is focused on what happens afterwards.

“We’re looking at what we’ll be doing with water and other extracted resources, how we’re going to process it, and sell to potential customers,” Haas explained. “We’re also developing a legal framework for resource extraction and processing on the Moon. Now there’s no regulation on the way to extract and utilise those resources”

Although the Lunar exploration field is quite competitive, the topic of resources utilisation is still not well-researched, so ispace is bridging this gap. It’s already raised €80 million in Series A funding but is looking for more money for the future missions.

ispace came to Slush looking for potential partners and customers and has attracted quite a bit of attention. The company is already working on several projects with the European Space Agency but envisions more collaboration with private companies that would need resources for their own missions and settlements on the Moon.

The other company in the Japan Booth that’s working on space-related projects — the satellite developer Axelspace — also came to Helsinki looking for partnerships.

The company’s offering is twofold.

“We’re an engineering company that launched 11 years ago in the Tokyo university,” said Kateryna Aheieva, global business development manager at Axelspace. “We’ve been building 100kg+ and 200kg+ satellites for our clients for nine years. Three years ago we also decided to start our own satellite constellation and sell raw imagery and data analytics services to customers.”

To that end, Axelspace has already launched one satellite of its own and is preparing to launch more next year. The industries in which the imagery taken by the company’s satellites can be used include forestry, agriculture, and more.

“We’ve seen quite some interest from the attendees,” Aheieva said. “However, our potential customers often think that satellite data is difficult to obtain and apply to their businesses. So we’re also educating people and explaining that it’s not as complicated as they think.

“We’re hiring more data analytics engineers to make data more simple and understandable for the customers. For example, farmers don’t really care how the satellites work and what kind of hardware we’ve got on the orbit. They want to know how healthy their crops are, whether there are any landslides, etc. Those are the analytics that we’re trying to improve and provide not only the imagery but also actionable data.”

Japan External Trade Organization, or JETRO, which brought the companies to showcase their products at the conference, is also happy with the results.

“The Japanese startups have drawn visitors’ strong attention for sure as we see quite a large number of earnest investors and companies dropping by their booth,” said Daisaku Yukita, Deputy Director at JETRO London. “We are hoping to see as many business progress as possible from here.”

With that in mind, we can certainly expect more representatives from the Japanese startup ecosystem at European conferences in the future. In the meantime, check out JETRO’s website for more news and updates on the companies coming from the region.