Support for start-ups is key to win space race - Albuquerque Journal

Support for start-ups is key to win space race

Casey Anglada DeRaad

Editor’s Note: Throughout 2022, New Mexico Angels’ members, investors and start-up owners will be writing columns on economic development and start-up opportunities in the state. The Angels unite individual investors to pool their resources, providing seed and early-stage capital to startup companies.

The space race is back on.

Winning it will require addressing the barriers companies face in launching their new products into space.

I founded NewSpace New Mexico with this purpose. As a former leader of the Air Force Research Laboratory Technology Engagement Office, I witnessed how challenging it could be for companies to understand and navigate to resources that can help them grow and succeed.

Through our cooperation with the space companies, convening industry forums and co-innovating with hundreds of space leaders across the nation, we try to get at the root causes that result in too many companies becoming stuck in the industry-acknowledged “Valley of Death.” It has come back loud and clear that the biggest challenge preventing more companies from succeeding is having a support system that goes beyond the research and development stage.

We recently launched NewSpace Ignitor, which is funded in partnership with AFRL, to address these concerns by providing a complete support system for companies as they move from concept to product to sales. The incubator-like program will provide unprecedented levels of post-R&D support to early-stage, small and mid-sized companies. This support will give companies what they need to turn their innovations into revenue-generating products.

Supporting companies across the full innovation lifecycle is incredibly complex and will require us to all work together to leverage the vast resources already thriving in our state. Our rich space ecosystem in New Mexico includes a purpose-built spaceport, two leading national laboratories, universities and three Space Force organizations that work in the state — the Space Rapid Capabilities Office, the Air Force Research Laboratory and Space Systems Command. It also includes a growing ecosystem of space-enabling entities, such as Q Station and the Hyperspace Challenge, plus investment capital organizations like our partner New Mexico Angels.

NewSpace New Mexico is working with all of these organizations along with our vast partner network as space companies advance beyond the start-up phase. We will provide tailored guidance to companies with well-defined concepts to elevate their readiness levels, accelerate product development and speed up sales. Supplying companies with greater access to specialized equipment and investment capital will be vital services offered throughout this process. Given prototyping and space manufacturing commonly cost millions of dollars, this is crucial to help companies connect to these resources. Participating cohort companies will also have opportunities to showcase their innovations to investors and buyers.

Right-sizing capital investment is the last critical piece in enabling more technology solutions to make it to space. While investment in the space sector reached a record $17.1 billion last year, it breaks down to a few late-stage mega-rounds and a total of 328 companies being funded. The total number of companies receiving funding needs to multiply for the U.S. to win the space race.

Through organizations like New Mexico Angels, private investors will be an important part of the solution by supporting programs like the NewSpace Ignitor with funding, mentorship and knowledge-sharing. In return, investors can be more confident that the companies they invest in will be more likely to succeed with New Mexico’s space ecosystem behind them, providing the full support needed.

There has never been a more exciting time to be in space. By uniting and igniting the industry and supporting start-ups beyond R&D, New Mexico holds the key to winning the space race and capitalizing on the multi-trillion-dollar new space opportunity.

NewSpace New Mexico is a 501(c)(3) non-profit entity that was established to bring together space stakeholders, promote a universal voice for space leadership and grow the commercial space innovation base for the benefit of the nation.

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