Vaonis: Where are they now?

Vaonis’s mission is to make the universe and astronomy accessible to everyone. The startup produces telescopes, or as the company likes to call them, “observation stations.”

Its belief was that existing telescopes were too complex, and not something that beginners who wanted to get into the astronomy field were able to pick up and be able to use without help.

From this belief, Vaonis redesigned the average telescope into something brand new. These telescopes have only one button, no eyepiece, and are paired with a mobile app. The exploration stations are a combination of a telescope and a camera, allowing anyone to explore the universe, take pictures of galaxies, nebulae, star clusters, and so much more, and be able to share these with those closest to them.

“Our aim is to make the universe something easy to understand and observe, for everyone. So it can go from the astronomy expert to the reader nearby who is interested or curious about what’s going on outside of this spaceship that we call Earth,” remarked Souhail Alaoui, Marketing Manager of Vaonis. “We have created many, what we like to call them, observation stations, because it’s not a normal telescope and can be set up in five minutes. It makes it really clear, easy to use and to observe and discover the beauty of the universe.”

Alaoui continued: “You don’t have to be an expert in astronomy to understand everything, because we show you how to use the app and it explains what you are seeing on the screen.”

Startups Magazine first interviewed Vaonis back in January 2022 at CES in Las Vegas. The startup’s technology intrigued the team, and after two years, it was finally time to catch up with the startup, and when better than our dedicated spacetech issue?

What’s new with Vaonis?

Since Startups Magazine’s first interview with Vaonis, the company has released more products and has been consistently researching and developing to bring out more advanced models of its stations.

In June 2023, the company released the ‘Vespera Pro’, which “has been optimised and graded to meet the needs of our two main targets, and the experienced people who need really advanced modes of observation. I think it’s the heaviest specs telescope on the market,” Alaoui mentioned. “We also have the Vespera, which is more affordable in terms of price, and easier in terms of adjustment and setup. These two are our main products.”

“We have also created a very entry-level observation station called the Hestia. It helps you observe the most common objects in space. The idea behind this is to make observation very easy, for example, we are targeting on making it the most sold product to observe the eclipse in the United States and North America on the 8th April.”

When discussing the Vaonis journey with Alaoui, he teased a new project which will be unveiled at CES 2024 in Las Vegas. While, at the time of this interview it was top-secret, he was able to go into a bit of detail about what we can expect to see at the show: “We are working on a big project that will be unveiled in January. It will be a new Vespera, and we’re calling it the Vespera 2.

“It's completely game-changing from what is sold now because we are working on sustainability. The idea behind this Vespera is to make a life-lasting telescope. So, you buy it once, and all you have to do, for example, if there’s another sensor that is created on the market, we'll send you the small piece that you will change and upgrade your Vespera without having to change everything and pollute the planet with an obsolete product.”

Sustainability is consistently on the minds of businesses, and especially startups, but spacetech isn’t an industry famous for sustainability. While companies may attempt to take small steps forward in sustainability, a lot of the innovations within the sector are a one-time-use case. So, Vaonis taking this step and creating a modular telescope that would allow for a lifetime of space observation, with occasional small upgrades, whilst still focusing on the user, is a big leap for a startup in the sector.

The challenges

Every startup has its fair share of hurdles to jump over, and the overcoming of these can lead to prosperity for the company.

“The company grew quickly, thanks to the Kickstarter campaigns. The big challenge for us was manufacturing. We went from needing hundreds of pieces, to tens of thousands of pieces to produce. It was difficult at first for us to adapt to this and to improve our manufacturing process, as well as the research and development process.”

Growth is so important for a startup, especially when it can reflect the longevity of the business. Though when a startup, such as Vaonis, experiences such fast-paced growth that almost outmatches what the startup is capable of at that moment, it can cause a real sink-or-swim moment, leaving only the startups that can deal with times of such rapid change.

Highlights of the last few years

Since our last chat with Vaonis, the startup has outgrown its old headquarters and moved into a new one.

“We changed our headquarters because the team grew. We have almost 25 people in France, and more around the world working for us,” Alaoui commented, highlighting how this French startup now has a global presence whilst continuing to grow and expand.

Another upcoming highlight, Alaoui mentioned, will be the unveiling of the newest product at CES 2024. This unveiling is set to be a momentous occasion for the company, especially as its existing product, Hestia, has been honoured with the ‘Best of Innovation Award’ at CES 2024.

What’s on the horizon?

With so many developments currently going on at the company, and an upcoming product launch, the question on everyone’s lips is, what’s next for the startup?

Alaoui commented: “We have big partnerships coming in the upcoming year. That’s not only scientific partnerships, but major actors here in France, people who are really influential in astronomy. This is something that will comfort our place in the astronomy and astronomy education field.”

Making astronomy accessible to the masses is the main mission for Vaonis, and with the hype and growth that the company has been experiencing for a long time, more and more people can shoot for the stars with its observation stations.