At a Glance
- the ISS National Lab held its annual space-focused start-up pitch event on July 25 at the ISS R&D Conference in San Francisco.
- In conjunction with the event, the ISS National Lab launched its new Investment Portal, a free tool that facilitates dialogue between start-ups and investors in the New Space and ISS ecosystems.
- Presentations focused on multifaceted opportunities in the rapidly expanding satellite sector as well as biotechnology, materials science, and technology demonstrations.
- An investor panel selected Lucid Circuit, a California-based company working on artificial intelligence chips for small satellites, as the best of the event.
“Space Investment 2018,” held on July 25 in conjunction with the International Space Station (ISS) Research and Development conference in San Francisco, was our third annual space-focused start-up pitch event. We are excited to report that our entrepreneur and investor dialogue continues to build from year to year. This year’s event consisted of 12 diverse presentations from start-ups contemplating seed or series A funding. The audience ranged from marquee venture capital funds to corporate investors, as we continue to see broadening investment interest in the space sector in general.
Additionally, as a significant development in expanding our capital-access ecosystem, we launched our new the ISS National Lab Investment Portal in conjunction with the investor event. The Investment Portal, a free tool for companies and investors, aims to facilitate dialogue between entrepreneurs and investors focused on commercial opportunities that emerge in the New Space and ISS ecosystems. (Companies and investors are welcomed to register on issnationallab.org/invest or e-mail us with questions at email@example.com.)
Many presentations during this year’s pitch event were focused on satellite ecosystem opportunities, including communications, remote sensing and data processing, and satellite refueling. The satellite industry is seeing rapid growth in the number of CubeSats launched, with further growth trends expected to remain healthy. This is driving rapid expansion of remote sensing and imaging capabilities—and resulting data generation—as well as opening new communications and Internet of Things (IoT) market opportunities. Presentations on technologies and business models for processing and communicating the massive amounts of data that will be generated in space, expanding space-based communications and IoT infrastructure, and elongating the life of satellites currently in-orbit clearly reflected imminent areas of interest and complement New Space business creation.
CubeSats and Commercial Launch Capabilities
In addition to the significant cost, form factor, and weight advantages of CubeSats, the satellite sector is benefiting from declines in commercial launch costs (SpaceX Falcon Heavy listed price at full capacity implies just ~$1,400/kg cost to low Earth orbit), expected further cost reductions, and broadening availability and capacity from small launch vehicles (with numerous maiden flights expected in 2018-2021 and beyond).
Additional presentations focused on life sciences and materials technologies, addressing topics such as electroactive polymer-based synthetic muscles, on-demand tissue engineering, in-space biomanufacturing of nutrients and pharmaceutics, bioremediation, spacecraft disinfection solutions, and 3D printing of construction materials. These topics have potential applications for low Earth orbit (LEO) and beyond within broad space industries. For example, materials requirements and logistical constraints, particularly with respect to pursuing space exploration opportunities beyond LEO, must be addressed by the growing New Space market, and advances made toward in-space manufacturing in recent years offer possible solutions.
These topical and fast-paced presentations were followed by an engaging dialogue with more questions than time available. Key areas of investor questioning included technology development, partner and customer traction, industry value chain, capacity and competition, and scale-up and production strategy, among others. The event’s investor panel, consisting of three venture capital investors, faced a challenging choice on deciding the winning pitch among the 12 presenters, ultimately selecting Lucid Circuit, a California-based company working on artificial intelligence chips for small satellites and space-based direct-to-user data analytics, as the best of the event.
We thank all the presenters and attendees for their participation and look forward to continuing to support growth of the New Space startup and investor ecosystem over the coming years!