2015 Was The Breakout Year for Investing in Space

2015 Saw Returns From Space Become Real in More Ways Than One Credit: SpaceX

2015 Saw Returns From Space Become Real in More Ways Than One
Credit: SpaceX

President Calvin Coolidge famously once said, “the chief business of the American people, is business.” Actually the full quote, made during an address to the American Society of Newspaper Editors in 1925, was

“After all, the chief business of the American people is business. They are profoundly concerned with producing, buying, selling, investing and prospering in the world. I am strongly of the opinion that the great majority of people will always find these the moving impulses of our life.”

If a report released today by the Tauri Group is any indication, Coolidge’s assessment could easily be applied to the year 2015 and the emerging NewSpace industry. According to the report, last year saw more venture capital invested into space startups than in the previous 15 years combined. The report, titled Start-Up Space is here, and is a great starting point for people who may be interested, but are unfamiliar with some of the basic definitions or terms.

In case you are wondering which company might follow on the heels of SpaceX as a “unicorn,” defined as a private company with a net valuation over $1 Billion, the house money is on Planet Labs.

The press release is below:

February, 2016
Contact: Kirsten Armstrong
US: 703 647 2743
Start-Up Space Report Shows More Venture Capital Invested In 2015 Than In Prior 15 Years Combined

Alexandria, Virginia – The year 2015 was a record-setting year for start-up space ventures with investment and debt financing of $2.7 billion (excluding debt financing, $2.3 billion). Nearly twice as much venture capital ($1.8 billion) was invested in space in 2015 than in the prior 15 years, combined. More than 50 venture capital firms invested in space deals in 2015, the most in any year during the 15-year study period (2000-2015).

Start-up space ventures—companies that began as angel- and venture-backed startups—have attracted over $13.3 billion of multiple types of investment since 2000, including seed ($1.3 billion), venture capital ($2.9 billion), private equity ($1.8 billion), acquisition ($2.2 billion), public offering ($23 million), and debt financing ($5.1 billion). Investment activity has soared in recent years. Looking at investment only (excluding debt financing), nearly two-thirds of investment in space ventures since 2000 has been in the last five years. Over 110 venture capital firms have invested in early stage space companies since 2000, and over 80 angel- and venture-backed space companies have been founded since 2000. Eight of these companies have been acquired, at a total value of $2.2 billion.

“Sophisticated senior investors believe that significant returns from space ventures are possible and are willing to accept the risk for those transformative results,” says Carissa Christensen, managing partner of The Tauri Group and advisor to several start-ups. Angel and VC investors—many involved in the largest deals in 2015—talked to The Tauri Group about their outlook and motivations. Interviewees attributed the increase in venture investment in space to more attractive opportunities and to successful exits (that is, situations in which early investors have seen returns on their investments). One investor sums up expectations succinctly, “You can now make money with space investment, which wasn’t largely a true statement before.”

Start-Up Space examines investment in the 21st century and provides analysis of space industry investment trends, focusing on investors in new companies that have attracted private financing. This report reveals several key findings on long-term trends and recent investment activity, based on data from 2000 through 2015 about angel- and venture-backed companies that have received seed, venture capital, or private equity investment.

  • The Tauri Group identified over 250 investors that have provided funding to angel- and venture-backed space companies. The names of all investors are not always disclosed, so the actual number of investors is even higher.
  • Investors in space companies are primarily based in the United States, representing 66 percent of the total: California is home to half of these investors. The non-U.S. investors, representing 34 percent, are based in 25 countries.
  • Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson, and Elon Musk are well known “space billionaires.” Twenty-one people on Forbes’ Billionaires List have an affiliation to a space enterprise.
  • A handful of VCs have repeatedly invested in common with others, notably Bessemer, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, First Round Capital, Founders Fund, Khosla, and RRE Ventures. At least two of them have invested in each of these firms: Accion Systems, Planet Labs, Rocket Lab, Skybox Imaging, SpaceX, Spire Global, and The Climate Corporation.
  • Acquisitions total $2.2 billion with 74 percent ($1.7 billion) in the last 5 years. Monsanto acquired the Climate Corporation for $930 million in 2013, Google acquired Skybox Imaging for $478 million in 2014, ViaSat acquired WildBlue for $568 million in 2009, and Uber acquired deCarta in 2015 for an undisclosed amount.

The report and the project on which Start-Up Space is based were funded in part through a research grant from the Emerging Space Office located at NASA Ames Research Center in support of the Office of the Chief Technologist at NASA Headquarters.

Posted in: NewSpace, Space Commerce

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