2018 ushered in “a potential space renaissance”

TechCrunch | 1/2/2019 | Staff
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The aerospace industry took flight with ambitious civilian and military projects over the course of 2018, and private investors took notice.

Rockets are flying to the far side of the moon. Entrepreneurs are creating new propulsion technologies to take rockets deeper into space and to make flying on Earth more electric. Finally, plans are afoot from private companies and governments to bring manned missions to the surface of the Moon and Mars.

Venture - Capital - Dollars - Boom - Aerospace

And venture capital dollars are fueling this new boom in aerospace innovation, with firms investing over $2.3 billion in new companies over the course of 2018, according to data from Crunchbase.

This surge of interest comes as no surprise to longtime industry investors like Francois Chopard, the founder of Starburst Aerospace, an accelerator and investment fund focused on the industry since 2012.

Past - Space - Rockets - Satellites - Handful

“It started in the past with only space. It was basically rockets and satellites and it used to be just a handful of players,” said Chopard. “Now it’s extended to aviation with all the [electric vertical takeoff and landing], hybrids and supersonic and defense planes.”

One startup developing electric planes, the Boeing and JetBlue-backed Zunum Aero, expects to make its first deliveries of new planes by 2022. And it’s not the only company that’s flying to market in a hurry. Wright Electric, Joby Aviation and Ampaire are all startups that are angling for their own place in the sky.

Deal - Flow - Chopard - Startups - Year

“We are seeing huge deal flow,” says Chopard. “There are 1,000 startups emerging every year on these subjects… After five or six years we are seeing many more people getting educated… seeing more and more people interested in investing in space.”

Among the investors expressing greater interest in the emerging startups looking to transform the aerospace industry are the very companies those startups are challenging.

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“We disrupt ourselves so someone else doesn’t disrupt us,” Brian...
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