The fifth Satellite Finance Network (SFN) Annual Conference and Trade Show

By Joanne Wheeler


Members of our London Tech & Comms sector group recently participated in the fifth SFN Annual Conference which took place at Inmarsat's HQ in London. The event focused on 'Landing and Growing in the UK' and attracted over 150 attendees representing companies such as ViaSat, Eutelsat, HSBC, the European Space Agency, UrtheCast and Laser Light. Exhibitors at the trade show along with ourselves, included Oxford Space Systems, Satellite Applications Catapult, Effective Space Systems, Inmarsat, SFN, Earth-i, Airbus Defence & Space, Printech, Satellite Finance, e2E, UKspace and ViaSat.

After an inspiring welcome by Ruy Pinto (Group Chief Operations Officer, Inmarsat) and Andy Green (President, UK Space and Industry Co-Chair, Space Leadership Programme), the conference was kicked off by Joanne Wheeler (Partner, London), a founding member and current Co-Chair of the SFN, who discussed recent SFN success stories, including introducing companies to the financial community, identifying and removing regulatory barriers and other impediments to growth of the UK space industry and promoting business opportunities between companies.

The first session included an impressive panel of CEOs from Inmarsat, Airbus Defence & Space, O3b, ViaSat and Clyde Space chaired by Satellite Finance's editor Jason Rainbow and topics included how to future-proof the relevancy of satellites and the prevalence of connected aircrafts.

After a short coffee break sponsored by Bird & Bird, we launched into a discussion on 'Landing and Growing in the UK' chaired by Stuart Martin, Satellite Applications Catapult's CEO. Panellists introduced their companies; Oxford Space Systems, Reliance Precision, Eutelsat, UKTI and exactEarth and topics ranged from the impact of Brexit on the space sector to export support programmes and tax saving measures to help start-ups succeed in the UK.

After a networking lunch sponsored by Satellite Applications Catapult, the afternoon session began with Nick Flitterman (Head of Telecoms, Portland Advisors) introducing a fireside chat with Gabriel Buck (Managing Director, GKB Ventures) and Peter Maplestone (Senior Underwriter, UK Export Finance).

The final panel of the day focused on how companies can 'scale-up' through different types and stages of finance. Chaired by Umerah Akram (Head of Elite Programme, London Stock Exchange), highlights included top tips for start-ups.

  1. Be clear about your business model and how to make money out of it
  2. Be investable with a good, balanced management team
  3. Invest in your investors. Investor care is crucial in the internet based world.

Panellists included senior representatives from Innovate UK, E-Synergy and Investing Zone, Seraphim Space Fund, Satellite Applications Catapult and Barclays, who all agreed that the challenge now is to help entrepreneurs navigate the options available to them. Richard Peckham (Business Development Director, Airbus Defence & Space) delivered a motivating closing speech, commenting on the SFN's efforts to change the future of space.

Joanne Wheeler commented: "The SFN has come of age: and the success of this conference and the high level of presenters and attendees is an example of this. Thank you to the Steering Board, especially Richard Peckham of Airbus Co-Chair of the SFN, and the sponsors of this conference: Bird & Bird; Airbus; the Satellite Applications Catapult; and especially to Inmarsat, who also kindly hosted the event again. The next events will be the Elevator Pitch training and Elevator Pitch Event and I would encourage people to get involved."