Exploring New Frontiers : Building and Investing in Spacetech 

Exploring New Frontiers : Building and Investing in Spacetech 

Thanks to the Boulder Startup Week 2024 programming team and session lead Marc Patterson of Endeavor Colorado for hosting an engaging discussion on the Colorado space and aerospace industry – this is the support we need for growing our position in the broader aerospace economy and bringing aerospace forward.

The Panel discussion “Exploring New Frontiers : Building and Investing in Spacetech” included discussion from key leaders in the Colorado aerospace community:

Rachel Kelley, Chief Engineer and Founding Team Member, Radia
Vanessa Clark, CEO and Co-Founder, Atomos Space
Vojtech Holub, CIO and Co-Founder, ThinkOrbital
Marc Patterson, Managing Director of Endeavor Colorado

The Boulder Startup Week Space Panel discussed the thriving aerospace ecosystem in Boulder, Colorado, highlighting its unique advantages, such as access to talent, quality of life, and proximity to key institutions like the National Renewable Energy Lab and various aerospace companies. Panelists emphasized the challenges and opportunities in securing funding, leveraging the local infrastructure, and the significance of space infrastructure and logistics. They also touched upon the evolution of the space industry, the role of Boulder in the broader aerospace landscape, and offered insights into networking and engagement within the local ecosystem.

Top 5 Topics

  1. Boulder’s Aerospace Ecosystem
    • Overview: Boulder is an ideal location for aerospace startups due to its thriving ecosystem, high quality of life, and access to skilled talent. The region boasts a high concentration of aerospace employees and multiple relevant institutions and companies.
    • Challenges: High cost of living can be a deterrent for attracting talent from traditionally lower-cost aerospace hubs.
    • Advantages: Proximity to facilities and institutions like the National Renewable Energy Lab, various turbine OEMs, and major aerospace companies.
  2. Funding and Investment Challenges
    • Current Landscape: There’s a notable scarcity of local aerospace-focused venture capital funds in Colorado, with most funding coming from outside the state.
    • Panelist Experiences: Companies have raised significant capital, but only a small fraction from Colorado-based investors. Efforts to engage local high-net-worth individuals and funds have been ongoing but challenging.
    • Potential Solutions: There’s a call for establishing more targeted aerospace venture funds in Colorado to support Series A and B stages.
  3. Space Infrastructure and Logistics
    • Critical Needs: There is a significant gap in outsized cargo capacity and overall space logistics infrastructure. This gap affects how satellite companies make decisions about launch vehicles and locations.
    • Innovative Solutions: Companies are working on developing orbital transfer vehicles and other logistics solutions to revolutionize space transportation and infrastructure, enabling more efficient and flexible mission designs.
  4. Capital-Intensive Nature of Aerospace
    • Investor Hesitation: Aerospace ventures require substantial investment, which can deter traditional investors who prefer lower-capital, high-margin businesses like SaaS.
    • Long-Term Returns: The space industry often involves long-term investments with uncertain returns, making it suitable for specialized investors willing to wait for potential high returns over a decade or more.
  5. Networking and Community Engagement
    • Events and Organizations: Various events and organizations, such as CU Boulder-hosted events, Colorado Aerospace Happy Hours, and the Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, provide networking opportunities.
    • Industry Integration: Engaging with local companies directly and participating in industry events are effective ways to integrate into the Boulder aerospace ecosystem.
    • Resource Utilization: Leveraging personal networks and attending prominent industry events can help individuals and companies connect with potential partners and opportunities.

The panel concluded with discussions on investment dynamics, particularly the impact of SPACs and the thawing of space funding, emphasizing the importance of strategic partnerships and customer prepayments in navigating the current investment landscape.