Original Publish Date: Aug 24, 2022 on Revue
“I would like to die on Mars. Just not on impact.” Elon Musk
Was invited to Las Vegas for a private event for three days, by my friend Bryan Talebi last week, with hundreds of Founders, Investors, and SpaceTech experts — focused on The Future of Humanity. I had the opportunity to sit down with multiple people who were part of the original Blue Origin team (Founded by Jeff Bezos) and Firefly‘s CEO Tom Markusic.
The question of how humans will inhabit and explore space, why it is important, and societal ramifications were all illuminating.
It left me asking questions like: How can humans protect themselves in space from dangerous radiation, gravity effects on the body, and Star Wars ramifications such as empires striking back. It turns out, the viability of space travel and settlement may be more realistic than I once thought, yet not always financially reasonable, given technology gaps and the demands for a healthier planet earth. Many believe space investments stimulate new technologies, such as GPS did for efficient global travel. Yet others fear dual-use doors being opened to military misuse or legal power plays by international adversaries.
Many of these topics, and their impact ramifications will be open dialogue for decades, and I hope this article will help open more peace and prosperity in the outer regions of existence.
The Russians were first to circle the moon in 1957 with Sputnik, and since then a race was sparked to plant the flag there, and elsewhere in the heavens. Mission driven companies like SpaceX w/Elon Musk at the helm, have decided to carry it forward with low cost rockets reaching the outer atmosphere, nearing $1/kg (exponentially less than decades before), where NASA left off. Since 2010 the number of missions supported by private companies has grown year-by-year. Note the end of space shuttle missions in 2011, a year after SpaceX’s first launch.
There is an excellent report made by SpaceTech Global — which goes into the industry in depth. The majority of the 2k+ SpaceTech startups around the world, were started a few years ago at the peak, and have significantly dropped off over the past few years. The majority of the funding in the industry was directed to a very small number of firms in the US primarily with firms like SpaceX — with aggregate firms around a $5T market cap combined internationally.
Issues & Opportunities
Interest in Sustainability
The above graphic captures the larger scope of Space Safety, but I wanted to go deeper on how aspects above can tie into Sustainability that I see as exciting and worth unpacking.
Space Settlement: Will these bring more peace and cooperation, including the development of more self reliant systems applicable to extreme earth environments?
Asteroid Mining: Could there be more efficient forms and less environmentally destructive?
“However, many experts argue on the flip side that asteroid mining would quickly destroy the economy of global raw materials, currently valued at about US$660 billion. They claim this economy would be quickly overtaken by the quintillions of dollars worth of material from asteroid mining” Harvard International Review
Space Tourism: Will people experiencing a view of the blue marble lead to a greater appreciation for the earth and all of it’s inhabitants? Excited to watch Stewart Brand’s upcoming documentary We Are as Gods in September.
Space Cleanup: There is a very large waste problem that orbits our earth. This causes both environmental concern, but also economic loss to assets that are operational. Could there be future advancements in materials used for space recycling, upcycling, or responsible burning in the atmosphere from environmentally sustainable materials?
Satellite Monitoring: Companies like Pachama (backed by Sequoia) and Planet (recent IPO), are helping to remove carbon from the atmosphere and protecting habitats at scale.
Space Factories: The advancement of robotics and automatic edge computing may open up more technological development to increase remote assembly in extreme environments — increasing safety, transportability of space factories, and perhaps cut down on material waste.
Recent Exits and Closes
Acquisitions in the market have not been showing a degree of concentration, in regards to volume, out of the 200+ deals narrowed down in venture — with the majority in dual-use. And surprisingly, I was only able to find two exits above the $100M mark in my research on Crunchbase (currently no Spacetech search tag). These are mostly startups in the industry that have raised up to Series B — which may not capture the SPAC and later stage IPO lmar
- Location: Palo Alto, CA
- Verticals: Aerospace, Communications Infrastructure, Internet of Things, Satellite Communication
- Diversity: Women Founded, Women Led
- Description: Swarm enables global connectivity with the world’s most affordable satellite network.
- Top 5 investors: Craft Ventures, National Science Foundation, 4DX Ventures, Social Capital, NJF Capital
- Total Raised: $29M
- Series A close $25M (2019)
- Founded in 2016
- Acquired by: SpaceX (Undisclosed)
- Exit Date: 2021
Blackbird (Acquired: SurfAir)
- Location: San Francisco, CA
- Verticals: Aerospace, Air Transportation, Internet, Mobile Apps, Transportation
- Description: BlackBird is on a mission to make flying as convenient and affordable as drivng with their nano-satellites
- Top 5 investors: New Enterprise Associates, Social Capital, Lunch Partners, Michael Perone
- Total Raised: $15M
- Series A close $10M (2019)
- Founded in 2016
- Location: San Francisco, CA
- Verticals: Remote Sensing, Carbon Removal
- Description: Pachama is an AI-powered marketplace for nature carbon removal credits.
- Diversity: LatinX Founded, LatinX Led
- Top 5 investors: Sequoia, Breakthrough Energy, Lowercase Capital
- Total Raised: $80M
- Series B close $55M (2022)
- Founded in 2019
Exit Data Source: Crunchbase
Copyright 2022, All rights reserved, Zecca Lehn @posi2ive. No advice given here (e.g., financial / legal / business / other). All views expressed represent those of the author personally at the time of writing, and not those of any external business entity nor organization.