Meet the founders – Bitrezus
1- Can you briefly explain what your solution is all about? What’s unique about it?
Our solution helps the space industry reduce the risks of cyber-attacks on their space assets and terrestrial infrastructure in a trusted and resilient way. We enhance the cybersecurity of satellite-to-ground stations, by minimizing the attack surface for potential adversaries.
Astropledge, is a low-powered embedded H/W integrated into space objects, that enables critical opcode consensus in real-time, among untrusted partners, for resilient and cyber-proof operation for space and ground infrastructure, leveraging blockchain technology and security.
Our product we believe will bring value to the customer as it will enhance the existing levels of cybersecurity and will allow operations’ resiliency.
One of the most distinguishable features of Astropledge compared to the competition is that our solution is customizable & re-configurable, being satellite- and manufacturer-agnostic. We leverage smart contracts to introduce new and on-demand functionality. Astropledge is also a superior solution due to the low power embedded H/W, the usage of blockchain light-node in space, in conjunction with full terrestrial blockchain nodes to create a cybersecurity shield against adversaries.
2- What’s the story behind your company? How was the idea for this business born?
First, let me introduce you, to our team. Dr. Konstantinos Antonakopoulos (KA), CEO and co-founder, has 23+ years of experience in Principal/Chief positions in the Finance, Oil & Gas, Transportation, and Space industry serving the Government, Academia and private sectors. KA holds a PhD in Evolutionary System and Artificial Intelligence, Certificate in Space Engineering and Science from ISU (SSP09) at NASA ARC and is a recent graduate from Antler Launch Academy.
Konstantinos Sotiropoulos (KS), CTO and co-founder, has 25+ years of experience in the IT industry. He has been leading IT departments internationally, mainly dedicated to the Software, Retail, Oil & Gas, Blockchain and Fintech sectors. As CIO / Deputy CTO at Credits LTD, successfully led a team of 100+ developers in Moscow, delivering the “Fast Credits Blockchain & Smart Contracts” protocol (credits.com) on time and on budget.
Marina Ntogka (MN), COO and co-founder, is a software developer who graduated from Athens University of Economics and Business as a Computer Scientist. She has participated in hackathons winning two of them: NASA Space App Challenge & Crowdhackathon Insurance 3.
Steve Panagiotakopoulos (SP), CMO and co-founder, has 5+ years of freelance experience in digital marketing and has worked with companies worldwide in SaaS, Fintech, Blockchain, E-commerce, Telco, HealthTech and more.
KA and KS have been working abroad for the last 14 years (brain drain phenomenon). We both identified the potential of emerging technologies, such as blockchain combined with Artificial Intelligence could bring to the software industry across most verticals.
KA has been working in software cybersecurity for several years and together with KS identified that the inherent and unique security and privacy properties of blockchain technology could be used in the aerospace industry, as asset manufacturing (GPS systems, LEOs, MEOs and GEOs satellites) and space mission preparation make take several years to finish, costing several hundreds of millions to the companies.
Those assets become increasingly important in our everyday life and their operational continuity ensures the resiliency and safety of our society and ultimately security at the national level. Protecting those assets looked of utmost importance to KA as they intend to become more complex, have an increased attack surface and may easily become vulnerable. What is perhaps worst, is that very few key players seem to understand and have the necessary cybersecurity awareness when sending a vulnerable space asset into orbit. The impact a hijacked space asset may have could be catastrophic not only to the very asset or the nation owing to the asset but may cause millions of euros in collateral damage to other assets being in orbit, in the long run. At the same time, cybersecurity threats have an exponential increase across all industries, where most of them can be found at the software, system or network level.
This is how we decided to establish Bitrezus PC, in November 2021, and focus on the cybersecurity for space assets and terrestrial infrastructure initially.
3-Which is the challenge that your solution tackles, and how do you set apart from the other companies with similar solutions?
We tackle specifically the man-in-the-middle attacks for critical opcodes being sent to space assets leveraging state-of-the-art blockchain technology to create an additional layer of security, both for satellites and terrestrial infrastructure. Our solution is kind of unique as it includes both embedded
H/W and S/W to help reduce the attack surface of the space assets currently in orbit, those to be launched in the future, and the ground infrastructure.
Our solution is different from the competition since we are clearly targeting cybersecurity for space assets, using a unique design and architectural characteristics for both the embedded HW and the blockchain security technology used. This allows our solution to be used in a resource constraint environment, customizable and reconfigurable.
4- What are your goals, and what’s the biggest challenge you are trying to overcome at this moment?
We are currently part of the SUN pre-incubator program and we have just applied at the ESA BIC incubator which will give us the possibility to develop the design and architecture of our solution for the next couple of years.
Our biggest challenge at the moment is to be able to find the necessary funding to allow us to execute our 5-year R&D strategy without setbacks. Our strategy includes the design of the embedded HW, WL-prototyping and pre-manufacturing phases which require money and resources but also efficient and lean management from the team.
Our future plans include the expansion of Astropledge solution to cover any other kind of space object and any kind of functionality that needs to be cyber secure, such as communications, payloads etc.
The competitive advantages mentioned above can also become an advantage in other industries internationally (such as manufacturing, maritime, energy, and others) to which we plan to expand after 2026.
5- What advice would you give to an entrepreneur trying to pave his/her way in the space sector landscape?
My advice to any entrepreneur is to try to understand real challenges and how they can be solved in an efficient way, but at the same time not stop dreaming big and ahead. My other advice is to spend time interacting and brainstorming with colleagues and like-minded people about key challenges. The only way to take an idea further is through communicating it and getting feedback as early as possible. Finding a good and serious incubator/accelerator with experienced mentors and advisors is also a good choice.
6- About SUN, why did you apply?
We were looking for an incubator program to be able to get a fast early product/market fit but also understand the merit of our solution in the space context since we are an early-stage startup. We studied the SUN program at f6s.com but also its mentors/advisors along with the general terms and conditions for participation. We realized that SUN could actually be a very good choice for us. We also realized that the program was facilitated by the Science Park Graz, home to the ESA Business Incubation Center in Austria, and that could give our team and solution the right visibility and exposure for the near future.
We are very pleased that we have applied to the SUN program since we received excellent and to the point feedback from very experienced mentors.