- Private space companies raised a record $8.9B in 2020.
- Reusable rockets lower costs for launching satellites by 70%.
- Hemisphere Ventures’ investment thesis is that space exploration has broad applications across a variety of different business sectors.
“Within 5-10 years every company in America seeking a competitive edge will have a space strategy,” said the fund’s general partner (GP) Lisa Rich. “Companies will use information enabled by space missions to leverage their current capabilities.”
Opportunities through space-based research and development are wide-ranging and include finding cures for diseases, advancing computing capabilities, testing resiliency of commercial materials, delivering high-speed internet to more parts of the world, and improving weather predictions, to name just a few.
This past year, private space companies raised a record $8.9B.
Investor enthusiasm is buoyed by the development of reusable rocket boosters — the cheapest of which ($37M) is used on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, which carries satellites into orbit.
Reusable rockets have lowered the cost of launching a satellite by 70%, from $200M in 2000 to $60M today. Some experts predict that number will fall to $5M in the future. Lower costs create a virtuous cycle: more satellites create more knowledge and new commercialization opportunities, spurring new investment.
As a result, venture-backed space startups have proliferated. Standouts include Relativity Space (valuation: $2.3B), Planet ($1.77B), Rocket Lab ($1.41B), and Axiom Space, which just raised $130M and reached unicorn status.
Hemisphere Ventures was Axiom’s first check.
“We’re seeing compounding outcomes as technology scales, and specialized, siloed fields intersect,” said Rich, who also runs her own commercial space exploration company, Xplore. “This has enabled what we previously didn’t think was possible.”
But Rich cautions newcomers — noting that she's seen investors unfamiliar with the sector participate in deals without understanding how the company will execute on their technology or proposed business strategy. That’s why Rich says you need to work with experts like Hemisphere.
“It's important to understand how the company fits into this emerging marketplace, and how they might create a sustainable business,” said Rich. “My greatest value-add as GP is understanding how space companies can grow, and sharing these insights with my LPs in an understandable and meaningful way.”
Over the past decade, 13 countries have launched their own space agencies, leading to new public-private partnerships.
NASA partners with SpaceX and Boeing to develop a transportation service for private trips to the International Space Station. Virgin Galactic and Blue Orbit will soon offer passengers trips to outer space.
Rich and others envision a future when thousands of people live and work in earth orbit. That’s the world Hemisphere Ventures invests in.
“For many, our space and frontier technology companies seem futuristic. But we don’t invest in sci-fi — we invest in real capabilities that can scale.” said Rich, whose investment portfolio includes Umbra (radar capable of taking pictures at night and through the clouds), Planet IQ (advanced weather prediction technology), Orbit Fab (gas stations in space), and Lynk (seamless mobile connectivity via satellites).
Rich considers Hemisphere’s investments to be “exponential opportunities”: frontier technologies with broad applications to benefit humanity. Outside of their fund, Hemisphere makes around 10 SPV investments into such technologies annually through AngelList.
“We’re dedicated to building the space and frontier tech economy to advance the future for everyone,” Rich said.