Michal Prywata was born for business. He took his first steps into entrepreneurship as a 19-year-old undergraduate student at the University of Toronto, before building Bionik Laboratories, a medical robotics company that launched him into the global healthcare industry. Now 29 years old, the young entrepreneur has set his sights a little higher. As co-founder of Phantom Space Corporation, Prywata aims to democratise space travel by making it easier, cheaper and more accessible. He’s going to space — and he’s taking the rest of us with him.
On becoming an entrepreneur at just 19
I've been an entrepreneur for as long as I can remember. As an undergrad I invented one of the world's first brain computer interface technologies that was wireless and allowed you to control something in an external environment with your thoughts. I just continued along that trajectory. There are definitely advantages [to doing this so young] — you make all your mistakes quickly, but you also get the equivalent of multiple MBAs in a very short space of time. You learn how to hire people, how to structure a company, how to grow revenue and build a company culture. I was one of the founding members of the DMZ, probably Canada's largest business incubator. We were all 19-22 years old and would have founder roundtables each week and talk about the different problems we were facing. If it wasn't for that support network it would have been very hard.
On democratizing access to space
Since I was young, I’ve looked at the stars and dreamt of doing something in the space industry. We want Phantom to be the Henry Ford of the space industry. It's an approach that no one has taken yet, primarily focused on building rockets that would truly democratise and reduce the cost of access to space. In order to make that possible we have to mass manufacture these rockets and bring down the cost, but also we have to become a global company. You won't be able to get to hundreds of launches a year launching out of one spaceport. You have to be able to do polar launches, equatorial launches and be able to launch from different coasts. If you speak to 70-80 per cent of the companies that are building satellites, their biggest bottleneck is figuring out how they're going to get to space. That's where we feel Phantom comes in — enabling all these new companies to get to space.
On the state of the Canadian space industry
We can be very proud of the robotic side of the space industry in Canada. There’s the Canadarm and various other technologies that have gone up and there’s the Canadian Space Agency's involvement with NASA and other groups. We've put astronauts up into space numerous times but, unfortunately, from a launch perspective we've been lacking. As of today, we don't have any active spaceports or Canadian-built rockets. I would love to be one of the first Canadians to be part of a team that builds rockets that go to space. The Canadian space industry has a lot of evolving to still do, but there's a lot that we can be proud of.
On his ambitions for the future
I have this personal desire to create access to space in some way. And I have a general desire to help humanity push forward. To create an environment that we probably all have been dreaming of for the last 50 to 100 years. That includes us becoming a multiplanetary species and building technologies that will help enable life beyond Earth in some way.