Shuttles & Startups
There are few things more epic & beautiful than watching the launch of a Space Shuttle. Over the 30-year span of the Space Shuttle program, NASA has delivered fully on it’s vision: ‘We reach for new heights and reveal the unknown for the benefit of humankind’. Captivating our hearts, our minds, and our imaginations — the Space Shuttle has definitely changed our view of the Earth & the Universe.
Our civilization’s fascination with aerospace engineering lives on today following the last space shuttle mission, most recently fueled by our excitement for the work Elon Musk leads with SpaceX and Jeff Bezos with Blue Origin. I think it should be no surprise that two of the most prominent and ambitious technology entrepreneurs of our generation have chosen focus their energy, capital and engineering leadership to define the next-generation of space travel. There are few things more noble, challenging, inspiring, and distinctly human than reaching orbit & beyond.
Over the last few weeks I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on the vision of Rough Draft Ventures, where we’ve come from and all that we’ve learned over the past 3 1/2 years since we started our program to back student startups. In distilling our identity and core values, I found resonance in revisiting my childhood obsession (of all places) with NASA, spacecraft, and the vivid images of rockets defying gravity. The rich history, science, tragedies and discoveries produced by our country’s exploration of space has provided me & countless others a limitless source of inspiration & motivation.
In search of an underlying, fundamental principal for the magic behind RDV, I found myself re-watching Space Shuttle videos on Youtube, and an analogy revealed my answer: if launching a startup is like launching a space shuttle, then at RDV we’re the solid rocket booster.
Solid Rocket Booster (SRB): the first solid fuel motors to be used for primary propulsion on a vehicle used for human spaceflight and provided the majority of the Space Shuttle’s thrust during the first two minutes of flight. (via Wikipedia)
My hope for our work is to play the same role for startups that the solid rocket booster provides for the space shuttle: primary & critical support at the earliest stages.
With RDV, we work alongside the best student entrepreneurs to help them get their companies off the ground. By providing capital, startup resources, peer network of founders, community gathering, and mentorship — we aim to equip young founders with the fuel required to take-off.
Our portfolio founders then continue on their journey, working with our collaborators at amazing accelerators (including YCombinator, Techstars, Thiel Fellowship, MassChallenge) and early stage VC firms (including GC, Redpoint, NEA, Greylock, Founder Collective, BoxGroup) providing additional capital and mentorship, propelling our startups to new heights, and in some cases: well into orbit….