My name is Chisomo Daka and I am a Physicist by profession (MSc. Physics and BSc.- Physics & Math). I am a Lecturer in Physics at the Malawi University of Science & Technology (MUST) and I am also a technology entrepreneur with one of my recently established businesses called Daka Space Technologies Ltd (DST). DST is based in Blantyre, Malawi and we are the pioneers of the space technology industry in our country. Additionally, I am an innovator in the digital space and I advocate for embracement of local technology solutions in government and private sector.
Tell us about how you got started?
My inspiration for starting a business in space technology industry originates from my prior experience in India at Lovely Professional University (LPU) where I was part of a student research project that was aimed at developing an innovative cube satellite (CubeSat) for quantifying and mapping trajectories of space debris under 5 cm length within the Low Earth Orbit (LEO). At that time, I was the Team Leader for the Payload sub-system of the CubeSat project. Among other things, our payload subsystem team was challenged to formulate new mathematical equations for defining and calibrating the laser ranging and detection capabilities of a customized pulsed laser for space debris detection in LEO. In addition to leading the payload team, I also worked closely with the satellite ground station and communications subsystem teams to help with my unmatched experience in radio frequency (RF) systems; antenna design, simulation and fabrication techniques; and radio network design and deployment. Thus, my motivation for founding Daka Space Technologies Ltd is greatly rested in this early engagement.
What makes your company unique?
Daka Space Technologies Ltd is fundamentally established to push the frontiers of space technology development and applications in the sense that we are focused on developing space networks for the future by leveraging the hidden potential of 5G Communication Networks in enabling space-based global networking. We understand that the future of humanity will require high-speed, affordable and convenient connectivity due to advancements in IoTs, Ais, MLs, and many other cutting-edge digital platforms. This being the case, it means that the network needs for the future cannot be fully met by terrestrial deployments. Thus, our primary value proposition is to design, build and qualify low-cost and easy to make spacecrafts for high-speed communications in Africa and beyond. We are convinced that manufacturing space technologies in Africa can greatly reduce the design, development, assembly and technology testing costs of space tech innovations due to low-cost of materials and the labor force. We are basically revolutionizing the space industry in Africa with our flagship product which is a 3U 5G CubeSat called "Daka Cube-1" for enabling 5G connectivity in Africa. This product is the first of its kind in Africa and it will be made available to a wider global market. We are inspired to support the needs of the African and global space technology industry through innovation.
No business is without setbacks, can you tell us about a time when you faced a significant setback and how you recovered from it?
There have been many such instances that acted as barriers to progress and setbacks. One such scenario occurred when I was establishing my ICT business back in 2017. At that time, I was trying to make a mark as a new kid on the block in town and I wanted to win the attention of top businesses. I tried to make calls, send emails and book meetings with most prospective customers (big corporates) but nothing seemed to work out. This kind of rejection made it tough for me to properly operationalize our business model. And our burning-rate was fast running since revenue was not flowing through. So, I had to sit down and re-think the whole business model. Then I changed our target market to SMEs, and since then our ICT business has prospered because we studied and understood the outstanding issues with SMEs access and utilization of ICT tools and services and developed customized business solution packages for SMEs. Of course, by now we also have clients in government and big corporations.
How do you define success and to what do you attribute your success?
To me success is being able to transform my dreams and aspirations to reality. As simple as that. I have been able to reach some height of achievement by constantly seeking to passionately execute my ideas with utmost commitment and determination. I have also been very resilient in times of failure and one thing that gets me going is the fact that I have learnt that failure is not the end game. I always get up strong every time I fall. Through failure, I have improved my approach and the focus of my business interests; and I have also learnt the value of persistence whenever first-time business execution seems not to work as planned.
What’s next for your business, what will it look like in 5 years?
As pioneers of space technology in Malawi, in the next 5 years’ time we plan to establish an Earth Station for tracking and commanding satellites and build a state-of-the-art satellite assembly and testing facility for qualification testing of small and medium satellites in Malawi. Within the same 5 years period, we would like to diversify our technical capabilities and business scope by becoming the first African space company to design and develop reusable rockets and win our share in the regional and global markets.
What do you think the future holds for Africa-focused entrepreneurs and advice do you have for entrepreneurs who are just starting out?
Well, Africa is the next big market on this planet. And there are a lot more industries still untapped or in infancy on the continent. Electric vehicles, space tech, marketplaces, photovoltaics, alternative/renewable energy, AI, ML, Robotics etc. So, my advice to prospective start-ups in Africa is that if you really want to succeed then think about solving problems for mankind on the planet. Don’t just get excited with becoming a founder of a company and then diving into the multiplicity of competition. Try to think critically about your abilities and inner potential and then find real solutions to existing problems. The greater the problem being solved, the higher the returns. That’s how business works.
Owning a business while balancing a personal life can be challenging; how do you take care of yourself?
It’s always a challenge to balance business endeavors and family. But I think my case is quite unique because I am married to a lady who supports my business ambitions but most importantly, I also make it a point to spare ample time for family on weekends. Sometimes I work, depending on workload on my deck, on Sundays evening but those are some of the rare moments.
What is your favorite quote or mantra? What keeps you going?
My favorite quote is by Peter Drucker and it says, “The best way to predict the future is to create it”. So, this inspires me to always want to translate my dream and vision into reality. And what keeps me going is my faith and trust in God. I know God has been there for me, He is here with me and He shall always be there for me in need and in prosperity.
What is your favorite app or a business tool that you can't live without?
Well, there isn’t any app I can’t live without but my three favorite apps are Linked-in, Google Meet and Webex. Linked-In helps me to meet new and amazing people across the globe every single day. And the last two are virtual meeting platforms and they have made it possible for me to recruit remotely and acquire remote paying customers.