Founders Interviews: Julian Fernandez of FOSSA

Indico Capital Partners
7 min readMay 6, 2024

This week, we share an interview with Julian Fernandez, Co-founder and CEO of FOSSA.

FOSSA Systems specializes in satellite manufacturing and IoT solutions, bridging gaps in cellular coverage and providing global satellite connectivity for IoT devices in industrial applications.

First, can you tell us about your professional background and the path that led you to FOSSA?

My background is primarily in the field of Internet of Things and Space Technologies. I worked on several IoT projects in industrial applications when I was younger. I’m fairly young but I started when I was about 14 years old working on composting machines which were connected via IoT, as well as several other projects I did, including one in collaboration with Apple and a couple of personal projects. I learned a lot about communications, a lot of this was learned personally, and I founded FOSSA as a non-profit association when I decided to find a way to provide IoT solutions from space using pico-satellites — very small, nano satellites. The story is quite interesting, actually. I started a thread on Reddit, and I said, “who wants to launch a satellite?”. Off this Reddit thread a lot of students and amateurs worldwide decided to get together and I founded FOSSA as a non-profit to launch the first pico-satellite dedicated to IoT. We did a crowdfunding and were also sponsored by Everis Aerospace and Defence. This is where I met my co-founder Vicente González, who later became co-founder of FOSSA as a company, but initially it was a nonprofit and FOSSA in fact is an acronym for Free Open-Source Software and Aerospace systems, because a lot of the initial information we had was on GitHub. So, it all started off as a project and then we launched the first satellite and saw that there was a lot of market demand. With this first pilot, we sort of validated the technology and the market and we bootstrap the company initially. We just decided to start the company and start delivering small satellites for IoT use case. In fact our first year we were EBITDA positive. That’s how let’s say a project turned into a company.

How is your product different from others in the market? What makes it unique?

Sure, in order for me to explain our value proposition I have to first explain the problem we’re fixing, and it’s a very big problem which affects many companies worldwide. It’s the lack of connectivity for remote industrial asset management system. So, 80% of the world has no connectivity. Obviously in the middle of the sea, you don’t have cell phone coverage. You don’t have it now and you’re never gonna have it because it’s not a viable business model for a telephone company like Telefonica or Vodafone to put a cell phone tower in the middle of the ocean or in the middle of Siberia. Combined with that, there’s more and more digitalization in the industrial world. Every day more and more IoT sensors are being deployed for several applications: to optimize industrial processes, to measure carbon emissions, to reduce carbon emissions, in container ships, in agriculture, in and all these industries. The only way to provide this connectivity is via satellites, but current satellite solutions are very expensive, very difficult to access and are not optimized for IoT. In fact, even recent solutions like Starlink, for example, just aren’t optimized for IoT, they’re meant for broadband communications. On the other hand, IoT solutions via satellite are typically very expensive, very power hungry, and difficult to use. So, in general, there’s no plug and play and scalable IoT system for remote industrial asset management and what FOSSA does is for the first time offer this in a very accessible fashion on all levels. Not only price, because this is a technology which is better suited for the use case, but also on technology. We are more accessible because we use existing standards. We use LoRa which is an existing standard in the IoT world which has been around for a decade now and allows interoperability in the system. These are the key value propositions.

How do you see the future of IoT? Any interesting use cases you want to point out that our readers might not be aware of?

IoT or industrial monitorization has been around for a long time now, it’s nothing new. It’s a buzzword now that things are being called IoT, but industrial plants have been connected with sensors for decades with systems such as Scada. So, IoT is not only the buzzword that it’s been promoted as, but it’s actually something that’s been in industrial world for a very long time and many of the use cases are already well known and deployed. One use case we have is container monitoring in remote areas — in areas with no coverage whether it’s at sea or for inland transportation. There’s a very big market of containers which can be connected via satellite for when they are in remote areas with no connectivity, and we have several projects for connecting these containers: to know the temperature of the container, its pressure, its position — all of the useful data which is critical to knowing how the asset is and whether it has any issues, to be able to send an asset to replace it. This is a very interesting use case, but we have others in oil and gas, for the monitorization of cathodic protection systems, for pipelines, etc. The idea is that you no longer have to go with a pickup truck or boat to measure the data manually. So, really the sky is the limit and we have applications for any company that has assets in remote areas, and even more so if it’s a big company which has decentralized assets such as utilities, oil and gas, energy, logistics.

How do you think that FOSSA may come to have a positive impact on decarbonization in the future?

Our main value proposition in this point, which is the whole motto of the company, is that we allow remote management of assets. That means monetization and control of assets in remote areas. If an asset is not being monitored it can’t be optimized. If an industrial process is not being monitored, it’s not being optimized. Not only because of the cost of monitorization, but also to optimize the maintenance processes. It’s not only going to collect the data, which expensive and which leads to unnecessary carbon emissions, but it’s also optimizing the maintenance thanks to having better data. This is where FOSSA allows companies to reduce their carbon emissions and optimize their processes. So, it could be something like optimizing the irrigation of a plant by knowing exactly it’s humidity and how much water it needs, or optimizing the use of a container by knowing exactly where it is and where it needs to go and how you can use the container so it’s not sitting empty at a lot.

If you could go back in time, is there anything you would’ve done differently?

I would have started earlier. I think being the first is always a big advantage, and we have a first mover advantage within this market. I think that good ideas are important to get to the market with the right timing. It’s always a balance of how much capital we raise so that we can reach our market fast enough. Perhaps if we’d moved even earlier there wouldn’t be enough hype around our solution, we might’ve been too early. In general, I’m happy with how things have been done at FOSSA.

What do you intend to make happen with FOSSA’s current round of funding?

With this funding round we intend to continue expanding our satellite constellation. We have already launched 17 satellites in low earth orbit, but we intend to have a constellation of 80, and we expect to massively commercialize our IoT solutions throughout the world. Right now we are at the pilot stage and we expect to start commercialization of the service also by growing our team and growing all of our sales muscle accordingly.

Lastly, what has been the most challenging part of growing a startup? And the most fun part?

would say finding scalability is a very big challenge. Finding that 10x. There are a lot of problems that deserve being solved in the world and there are a lot of interesting problems which can be solved and which have a market, but finding the niche and the market which is scalable, which has the technology, but which is still not saturated, I think that’s a tough one when building a startup. You need to pick very well what you’re doing. I think that’s why we also see a lot of startups pivoting. We were lucky enough that we had a clear vision from the start, but I would say that’s the biggest challenge when building a startup. Then the most fun part of building a startup I think is the agility, not knowing what will come next, because you can move so fast and you’re able to adapt to the market conditions. I think that’s the beauty of a startup, that you can do what the big corporations take decades to do with much less capital and in a much more agile manner and evidence of that is the fact that FOSSA has been able to already launch 17 satellites and have very big customers worldwide with not a lot of capital. Also, being fully honest, what brings me the most satisfaction is getting feedback from customers that we have solved a problem which is important to them, and which has an impact. This sounds very cheesy, but it’s the truth. There’s nothing that makes me happier than a customer saying that they’re happy with what we’ve delivered and that we are actually solving a problem and having an impact. This is really I think the vision which we have and which transcends any financial result, any KPI, it’s the satisfaction of our customers.