Skip to content

EP 6 — Umbra's Gabe Dominocielo on Differentiation and Self-Disruption in the Satellite Industry


On this week's episode of the DIB Innovators podcast, David talks with Gabe Dominocielo, Co-founder at Umbra, an Earth observation company. They discuss how Umbra uses synthetic aperture radar to observe the Earth, how they built the business for maximum IRR, and what they do to differentiate themselves from other satellite companies. They also talk about the long-term benefits of working with the US Government, how they foster a culture of security, and how Umbra seeks to continuously disrupt itself.


Topics discussed:

  • What synthetic aperture radar is and how Gabe and his business partner saw its potential impact and profit.
  • What Umbra does to differentiate itself from the competition, including lower costs and redesigns based on customer feedback.
  • What it's like working with the US Government and the benefit of having long contracts over time.
  • Their approach to data sharing and licensing, and how it allows for cost savings and more versatility.
  • How they foster a culture of security-mindedness to keep their IP safe.
  • What they look for in new talent, and how they use the "reverse interview" with strong candidates.
  • The challenges of launching a satellite company and how Umbra works to constantly disrupt itself. 

Guest Quotes: 

"When we went and designed the satellite, we redesigned it many times after customer calls. And I think a lot of people, once they got that first venture dollar, they went with their first design, they got their spacecraft to space, and all the customers are like, wait, we told you that we wanted X, Y, and Z. And a lot of those entrepreneurs are like, well, we gave you a satellite. It's like, yeah, but it's not solving my problem." 

"The government does a great job of acquisition. The reason for that is the government cannot make mistakes. So the best way to reduce the amount of mistakes is by forcing people to perform." 

"We have probably more security and compliance training than I would like, but it is useful because you have to realize that not everybody's our friend." 

"Make mistakes, but make them short. … A really great way to learn is through making mistakes, but you should learn your lesson quickly."

Get in touch with Gabe Dominocielo:  




Get in touch with your host, David Graff: 


Listen to more episodes: