The rapid expansion of the commercial space industry over the last couple of years has led early-stage investors to consider very different types of companies than they did when space startups were a novelty.
The availability of more affordable rides to space, the maturity of ground infrastructure and improvements to accessibility and usability of earth observation data have combined to position entirely new breeds of space-related ventures as ripe for high-risk, high-growth investment.
At TC Sessions: Space 2021, we hosted “Being There When Stars Form,” a panel discussion with three early-stage investors:
- Chad Anderson, founder and managing partner, Space Capital
- Jessica Robinson, co-founder and partner, Assembly Ventures
- Jonathan Fentzke, managing director, Techstars
Given the topic, we talked about SPACs and also focused on areas that are piquing the interest of people who are placing bets on new and emerging space-related tech companies. Something everyone shared an interest in was infrastructure, including sustainable on-orbit operations and collision-avoidance, as well as applications being developed using in-space assets that are already in operation.
Find highlights from our conversation below, or scroll to the bottom for a video with the entire chat.
The last 10 years have been transformative for space; we’ve gone from a handful of defense contractors and a few monolithic satellites in orbit, to suddenly tons of participation by 1,600 space companies, raising a lot of capital over the last 10 years and deploying a lot of satellites. SpaceX and Starlink have launched quite a few satellites this year, as they roll out their beta version of Starlink and going into commercial production next year. And from 2020 to 2021, we’ve seen a massive uptick in the number of satellites launched. So we have tons more commercial activity that’s happening in space and no doubt, there’s 100 times more debris in orbit. So getting our arms around that is a key focus area for governments and commercial companies.
The things that are most exciting to us, regardless of whether they’re here on Earth, or in space, are certainly around data. I’m sure we’ll talk a lot about that today. I think the continued opportunities and applications of AI and machine learning are particularly applicable here as well, given that you don’t want to downlink things that you don’t have to. And I think robotics is another area that for us as investors translates well, certainly there are considerations in the space environment.