Space, Tech & Entrepreneur: Interview with Aliya Grig

It is time to meet the one who does it all. She is a space visionary, an innovator, and last but not least, a tech entrepreneur - Aliya Grig.

by Varvara Karimova

Your popularity, as well as the list of achievements, is growing with each new day. However, how did these successes begin? Can you please tell us a little bit about your background, your childhood, as well as interests that have lead you to where you are today?

I was born in the family of an astrophysicist. My mother was a chief constructor in the Pulkovo observatory (St Petersburg, Russia). Since childhood, I was surrounded by great minds - scientists, sci-fi writers, and artists who were interested in making our planet a better place, and discovering new opportunities in space. Their exciting stories inspired me and formed the cosmic vision of my own life journey. I believed it was possible to travel among different planets, live in the first city in space, and manage longevity. Interestingly enough, I never wanted to travel to space or become an astronaut. I envisioned our planet as the first step to discovering ourselves, our future, and opportunities for our society. That is how I got attracted to the idea of space. I believe that it is both a mental and a geographical milestone towards a better future. Today my mission is to create projects that accelerate positive changes in life through breakthrough technologies, innovations, and human evolution.

I was born and grew up in St. Petersburg, went to a boarding school in London, graduated from Saint Petersburg State University, School of Management, and Trinity College in Dublin. Later I took an internship at Bocconi University in Milan and HEC Paris. Studying in different countries gave me a vast experience with global mindsets about business, projects, and technologies that can create an impact.

I started my first business at the University. I was providing consulting services to various technology companies and a large fashion retailer. Since my school years, I was very interested in technologies that can change our world. I was looking at different spheres - renewable energy, new materials, clean water, sustainable construction. After graduating from the University I built my first startup -- fuel cell technology. It was a renewable source of energy, which can help to gain cheap sustainable energy. I found a research team in the field, we created the prototype and sold it to one of the leading producers of fuel cell energy.

My next project was in the urban development area. I really liked the idea of sustainable urban communities around the world, because they bring together like-minded people and create ecosystems for engineers, artists, and scientists, who collectively can make faster breakthroughs in technologies. There were great examples during human history of people working in small communities, like CERN Android collider in Europe or AI cities, which are now growing fast in China, or sustainable city Masdar in the United Arab Emirates. They work collectively to make breakthroughs and create new solutions, which can help our society. That was one of the ideas behind the Cosmos City project, on which we are currently working on.

My other project was a small town renovation in Russia. Together with an international team of urban specialists, we created and implemented new concepts of life and technological development. We created urban development in the town, new working places, and an industrial park. We also created a new concept for city life and renovation. This concept is successfully replicated - creating new co-working areas, urban spaces, and growing quality of life.

Together with my team we also gained the second prize at the international competition of redevelopment of the Moscow River embankments of ​​1,100 hectares in total. Our project made depressed districts of Moscow economically attractive for investors.

My next startups were dedicated to space technologies. I launched three space tech startups: a new type of aluminum-scandium alloy for the aerospace industry, 3D-printing in outer space, and a light launch vehicle.

I made successful exits from two of these startups (overall valuation was $220 million). We successfully partnered with Boeing, NASA, Mitsubishi for these projects.

Later I was also involved in various art projects - creating a video art project about our society during Venice Biennale, supporting the publishing of the book about Russian Cosmism.

Cosmos City philosophy didn’t come to me all at once. I didn’t wake up one day like Mendeleev and come up with a revolutionary concept. It was a gradual growth.

My passion was urban planning, and I spent a long time working on the urban development of cities across Russia. The monocity Krasnoturiinsk, the Moscow River land area, the Bolshoi Usuriiskii Peninsula - these were all projects my team and I conceived and implemented. My main inspirations were Tommaso Campanella’s “The City of the Sun” about the development of future generations, and Jacque Fresco’s “Venus Project”.

I wanted to put all my knowledge and experience of urban planning and building into something bigger, something far-reaching. Even then, I understood the need to move forward and think on a global scale - to create something that would help humanity transform itself and evolve. And that’s how the idea of building the first orbital city of the future was born.

Through my various scientific studies of our planet, Universe, and human’s mind I started to think about the existence of both a microcosm and a macrocosm, the Universe and the people in it. We are part of a bigger world, and at the same time, we all have our vast inner world within us. This inner world must be nurtured and developed. I do believe that we as humans must live conscious and deliberate lives, weighing our every action, as we each answer for our microcosm which directly affects the macrocosm. Everything is connected. We are all part of a big puzzle.

I am convinced that we all have an inner microcosm which we either guard and develop, propelling our awareness and thinking into space, or we destroy ourselves and the environment. My life mission is to help humanity advance, to teach people to protect and expand their microcosm to make the world a better place through their transformation. The better we become, the more the world will flourish.

Could you please share with us about your professional sphere of work, about your projects? What is it exactly that you do?

For the last four years, I have been focused on two main projects. The first one is Cosmos City. Cosmos City is being created to satisfy a huge global interest in space, sustainability, self-development, and our future. Its long-term aim is to catalyze a transition in human evolution and awareness away from the chaos of our civilization towards a new era of enlightenment and human progress. One of our main goals is to popularize space among young and future generations. That’s why Cosmos City will become a home for ideas and inventions of young artists, scientists, and innovators who are committed to healing our planet and exploring the potential of space.

The mission of Cosmos City is to stimulate a necessary quantum shift in our collective mindset, uniting people through increasing our awareness to build a better version of our planet both here on Earth, and in the furthest reaches of the Universe. It is both a technological and commercial project, but it is designed to enlighten and entertain, bringing to life a new consciousness guided by 360° awareness of quality living, and the progressive development of Humanity.

The City will consist of multiple physical venues: 40,000 m2 Edutainment Centre, 25,000m2 Innovation Hub, and Space Hotel & Residence. Overall 200 000 m2. Its entertainment and science part will use VR/XR, multimedia technologies, digital avatars to create a real-time ‘life in space’ and educational futuristic experience. The potential locations for the project are Lisbon, (Portugal) or Los Angeles (USA).

Cosmos City will be supported by an extensive multi-purpose online platform. This is how Cosmos City is connected with my second project - Human Cosmos app. The Human Cosmos App is an AI (Artificial intelligence) and EI (Emotional intelligence) based personal assistant that is designed to ensure 24/7 virtual guidance for users who need to balance and enhance the quality of life, maintain mental wellness, and achieve personal goals. Combining psychology, mindfulness, astrology, and human design approaches, users get a comprehensive approach to any need, goal, or problem. Based on AI-powered individual diagnostics, users get personalized recommendations on a library of original content, including recommended practices, meditations, daily directions, and other personal development tools selected to ensure balance and harmony in everyday life.

I'm also acting as a cofounder in an AR project. We are creating a contact lens with augmented reality, it’s a deep-tech startup.

Public and social activities are also very important for me. I have published two science fiction books about space: "Cosmos: mine & yours", and "Yala's mental travels" for kids. I am involved in various science and art projects. I’m currently working on research on how meditations, psychological tools, and nutrition can influence our brain and behavior. I build awareness around my project and share my vision through various public speaking opportunities around the world.

What is the best part about your field of work?

It’s a great question because I feel like I work since I truly love everything I do. All my projects are parts of life's passion. Great results, inspiring feedback motivate me to grow and expand. For example, through my books, I received over a thousand feedbacks and replies from kids, how they're motivated to learn about space, and how they understand that working on personal development and future technologies is more important than using social networks. When I see the way my projects change people's lives, how they inspire them and bring them to a better future, better life -- this is all I could dream of.

What was the hardest professional challenge that you have faced and how did you overcome it?

My hardest professional challenge is trying to speed up processes. I'm a very fast person and sometimes I'm thinking faster than other people and trying to implement projects fast in reality. Sometimes things like the pandemic slow down the process or there is a human factor inside my team that people are slower than me. This is the hardest professional challenge for me.

You are very successful and determined. Could you tell us a little bit about your motivation, about the force that drives you to continue to achieve new heights?

My first and main motivation is my life passion because I can't imagine my life without doing Cosmos City and the Human Cosmos projects which can make a breakthrough in our society. I'm a very active person, I am not just thinking about a better future, but I start acting immediately. That’s what motivates me. When I can create things and see the results. My second motivation is my kids because I do want changes in our society to make our world a better place. My personal motivation is to have my kids live in a better society.

Is there perhaps one lesson that you have learned early on and used a lot throughout life, that you can give to our readers as a piece of advice for the future?

My one and main lesson, which I learned is to stay focused on what you are doing. The first lesson is to never agree to something that does not personally lite you up inside, does not make your heart sing. Lesson number two is to always focus on your high goals and praise yourself even for small achievements, small results. When you think day by day about achieving another small step to implement your dream to reality this is positive support for your brain, and it helps you to move faster and efficiently to your results.

What would you say is your greatest strength?

My greatest strength is global thinking, global mindset. I don't have any limits in my head. I think that everything is possible that we can imagine.

Who / What inspires you? Could you please elaborate?

A lot of different things inspire me. First of all, users’ feedback and results of the Cosmos City and Human Cosmos app. My team inspires me a lot. Their achievements, their results. My family and my kids, because they're the best teachers for me, and the way they think, the way they act inspires me a lot. Regarding business people: founder of Airbnb, Brian Cheski, his business approach inspires me a lot. Richard Branson inspires me with his mindset and creativity. Jeff Bezos with his work around creating space technologies. Also, Gisele Bundchen with her activities brings a positive impact on our planet.

Do you have a philosophy, which you prefer to follow? If yes, what is it?

My philosophy is that each of us has endless possibilities, and we were born on this planet to make an impact. We shouldn't just live our lives in an ordinary way. Each person can make an impact through his daily actions and his mindset. I'm doing the things which can bring our planet a better future because that’s the only way it can happen. It won't happen with any other tool rather than our mindset because our mindset will lead to great technologies, and bring to our world great people scientists like Nikola Tesla, Albert Einstein. My philosophy is to think out of the box without any limits and to act without limits. We should work daily towards the improvement of our plan, our society, and people's lives. The only limit is our imagination.

What are some of your plans for the future? Exciting upcoming projects?

My plans for the future include starting the construction of Cosmos City and open it by 2025, growing the audience of our Human Cosmos app, and becoming a leader in the sphere of mental health and well-being. Also, I have a plan to make a movie based on my science fiction book about space.