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Family/private capital is driving commercial space travel

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Texas-based family office Hemisphere Ventures is one of the biggest investors in the commercial space sector, underlining the role private investment offices play in the burgeoning sector. 

A number of family office founders are keen to become space tourists. Per Wimmer, who heads up the Wimmer family office,  a London-based multi-family office, wants to be the first Dane in space

The dream will never die. Fifty years after the Apollo 11 moon landing, interest in space travel among investors is regaining momentum – and private investment groups are leading the way. 

Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson see potential in several areas, including space tourism and data transfer.

Musk, the most ambitious of them all, wants to colonise Mars. His Space X venture has a $33 billion valuation – unmatched in the sector. Governments are also rekindling their interest in exploring space to project their power  – or mine the asteroids. 

A number of family office founders are keen to become space tourists. Per Wimmer, who heads up the Wimmer family office,  a London-based multi-family office, wants to be the first Dane in space. 

US entrepreneur and aerospace engineering Eric Anderson was early to latch onto the potential of space, promoting a number of missions to the international space station, through Space Adventures.

There have also been casualties. XCOR Aerospace once developed the Lynx space plane filed for bankruptcy in 2017.

But the total raised for space ventures totalled $1.5 billion in 2018, marginally less than the previous year’s $1.8 billion. 

Data provider PitchBook says the total should top $2 billion this year, thanks to a $705 million fundraising by Space X and an increase in Asian investment.

SpaceX is currently planning to launch 60 satellites to supply global internet services. OneWeb, backed by Richard Branson, is planning a rival broadband service, as is Telesat, backed by Blue Origin, a space venture started by Bezos Expeditions, Jeff Bezos’ investment group.

Branson’s Galactic space programme is currently planning a New York listing, after selling tickets to fly in space to 600 tourists for an average of  £100,000 ($121,000) a pop. 

Space venture opportunities tend to be more prosaic but a string of ventures funds and wealthy investors are seeking profits from the final frontier.

PitchBook has just ranked them according to the number of space-related deals they completed since 2010. 

Space Angels, a space tech specialist, comes top with 22 deals, including backing for Elon Musk’s Space X, Kepler Communications, a specialist in handling access to satellites; Nanoracks, which manage research at the international space station, and SkyWatch, which integrates satellite data with software in 60 seconds or less.

Space Angels is led by Chad Anderson, who used to manage a $50 billion real estate portfolio for JP Morgan Chase. The company was founded by Guillermo Sohnlein, also a backer of ocean research and Burton Lee, an adviser to new businesses.

According to the Space Angels website: “In many ways, the space industry is at a similar stage today as the internet was in the mid-1990s. There is real money to be made here!”

Hemisphere Ventures, owned by Jeff and Lisa Rich, comes second in the PitchBook list with 17 deals. It sets out to provide seed capital to software, biotech, robotics and nanotechnology, incorporating space tech. 

It has investments in Akash Systems, a satellite technology company, LeoLabs which maps earth orbits to track space debris and Planet, which provides satellite imagery. Jeff Rich is an early-stage venture capitalist. He started quotation service BrainyQuote in 2000 with his wife Lisa, an angel investor in her own right.

Data Collective, aka DCVC, comes in third, with nine space deals. It is co-led by Zachary Bogue and Matthew Ocko, who operate in a broad range of tech sectors. It has invested in Rocket Lab, a rocket launching company; Capella Space, which operates satellite radar imaging and Akash.

Venture capital specialist Founders Fund comes in at number four. Led by the ubiquitous Peter Thiel, PayPal founder and investor extraordinaire, it has invested in nine space deals including Akash, Space X and Moon Express, which develops robotic spacecraft. 

Dylan Taylor Investments is placed fifth, with eight deals. Taylor’s deals include Planetary Resources, which seeks to provide equipment to mine asteroids and laser company Powerlight Technologies. 

 

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