How Spaced Ventures Will Enable Anyone To Become A Space Investor
Aaron & Brant
Tell us your background and about Spaced Ventures
I have bachelors degrees in finance and marketing, but my professional background was primarily in marketing, community building and startup growth.
I’ve always been a space geek but it took seeing the Falcon Heavy launches and booster landings to inspire me to make space my career.
I spent the next couple of years learning as much as I could about space and the industry. I talked to any startup founder that would talk to me and started curating space content on Pinterest under the account MarsWalkers. Those years laid a foundation that helped me formulate the concept for Spaced Ventures and eventually partner with Brant to build it.
Spaced Ventures is an investment portal specifically built to give the public the ability to invest in early-stage space companies. We believe bringing early public investors is critical to helping the space industry accelerate innovation and make humans a multiplanetary species.
I’ve always been a space geek but it took seeing the Falcon Heavy launches and booster landings to inspire me to make space my career.
After receiving a rejection letter to be an astronaut from the Canadian Space Agency, I became an entrepreneur and executive in the finance industry, where I stayed for the past 30 years.
I am generally known in fintech for my work in electronic trading, renewable energy derivatives, and capital markets technology. I began my career in academia, researching computational intelligence, but then transitioned to commercial ventures in technology including; consulting, product development, strategy and capital raising.
I have been both a Chief Information Officer (CIO) for large banks and an entrepreneur, having started several fintech start-ups.
Seeing the progress in commercial space and with help from people like Chris Hadfield, I have moved into the NewSpace industry and am currently a founding partner at 9Point8 Capital, a founder of Spaced Ventures and founder and CIO of Gravity Capital Partners.
How did the idea for Spaced Ventures come about and what was it like getting started?
I’ve always been a space geek and science fiction fan, but I felt like being an astronaut was for people that were ‘smarter’, richer, or more well connected. I had convinced myself that a traditional business career was the pragmatic direction to take.
That all changed when I saw the Falcon Heavy booster landings on the SpaceX live stream. My brain broke. The barrier dividing the neat compartments of fun/science fiction/space and boring/work/business came crashing down. It was powerful enough that my wife and I decided to move to the Space Coast in Florida so we could watch future launches.
After we arrived in Florida, I began looking for ways to get involved with space and launch my own space startup. Around the same time, I was learning about private investing, venture capital, and ways for normal people to invest in private companies. I’ve been investing in public companies since I was 12, so investment has always been interesting to me.
A few months after arriving in Florida, my wife encouraged me to start a space focused Pinterest account. So I did. Within 5 months of starting, our content was getting 3 million unique monthly viewers.
Somewhere along the line while talking to space companies, learning about investments and seeing our MarsWalkers account take off, it all clicked. I needed to start a public space investment portal.
I spent more than 6 months trying to figure out how exactly to do that; pitching the rough concept to investors, and coming up with some early designs. During that time I met Brant through LinkedIn and we developed a friendship over Zoom. This was just at the beginning of the Covid-19 outbreak, so business partnerships over Zoom were becoming the norm.
Brant is a space geek who just happened to have 30 years of experience on Wall Street and building fintechs. It took a little convincing but I was able to convince Brant to join me in building Spaced Ventures.
How did you fund the company initially?
Brant and I put in some cash up front to get things rolling. We bought domains, put up a website, and started telling folks about what we were doing.
We were very lucky to be accepted into the Starter Studio growth accelerator for startups in central Florida. The program, mentors and fellow startups were great and instrumental toward helping us develop our strategy.
One of the perks of the program is a $25k convertible note investment upon completion of the accelerator. That was critical leverage for us to bring in other investors and also land a grant from the city of Brownsville in Texas.
We as a species are not innovating fast enough to make human’s multiplanetary, especially not if we want to see it in our lifetime.
We’ve been incredibly lucky to bring on some of the most respected folks in the space industry as investors, which goes a long way toward earning cred in the industry.
Our initial funding has gone toward product development, sourcing and vetting companies that want to raise on our platform and getting the legal and FINRA approval of our funding portal, which we got in May 2021.
Why is the problem you are solving important and how does it help human space exploration?
At a very high level, the problem is that we as a species are not innovating fast enough to make human’s multiplanetary, especially not if we want to see it in our lifetime.
There are two key issues we are solving to ramp up innovation.
First, is space capital formation (or funding).
Every new industry has problems getting capital efficiently. This is particularly problematic in space. Most companies need between $2mm-$5mm before they can even get a product capable of generating revenue into space.
The folks that normally invest with checks that big normally don’t like investing in companies without revenue, and investors that can tolerate that revenue risk don’t understand the technology enough to tolerate the tech risk.
As a result, most space companies get stuck in the same loop. They need a few million to get to their first revenue but can’t get investors until they get to their first revenue.
Our plan is to address this problem by connecting them to funding from many more investors with smaller checks who feel they can tolerate the risk.
The second problem is meaningful access to space for most space enthusiasts.
I felt this first hand. Being involved in the space industry is hard for non-engineers and non-billionaires. By finding, reviewing and listing space startups doing important work we give people on the outside (like me) the ability to meaningfully be involved in the space industry and learn about space technology and markets at the same time.
There are two key issues we are solving to ramp up innovation. First, is space capital formation (or funding). The second problem is meaningful access to space for most space enthusiasts.
Essentially, we are solving these two problems by bringing them together and letting both types of people help each other in a safe and legal way.
What are some achievements you're proud of?
It’s been incredibly encouraging to be trusted by some of the most respected space investors like Dylan Taylor and Ryan Kriser, plus being trusted by the City of Brownsville to help build out their space ecosystem with massive companies like SpaceX.
We’ve also been lucky to talk with over 300 space companies about raising on our platform since we’ve received approval from FINRA. The vast majority of those companies come to us, and we wish we could help them all. It’s incredibly humbling to see the reception from the industry.
Given our reach with startups we believe we realistically stand a chance of offering investment opportunities in the top 10% of space startups.
Of course, all potential investors need to know that early stage investment is incredibly risky, especially in the space industry, and that there is a very real risk they will lose their entire investment. Still, we know there is a large community of investors who are able to tolerate this risk, especially because of the smaller check sizes (as low as $100) our platform allows.
What have been some of your biggest challenges? How did you overcome them?
Our biggest challenge has been regulatory approval and ongoing compliance. SEC and FINRA guidelines are in place to protect investors, prevent fraud and bad actors from taking advantage; but it means we needed to have our entire platform nearly perfect before we could get our approval.
Many lean startup principles and best practices get thrown out the window for us. Early funding and patience from our early adopters has been incredibly helpful as we navigate regulatory rules.
We’re also fairly limited in how we can market ourselves and the startups that will be on our platform. Again, due to regulatory reasons, we’re reliant on early adopters, fans and the industry to spread via word of mouth. We’re incredibly lucky to have many fans who help us tell startups about what we are doing and potential investors to get ready for each campaign launch.
What are exciting milestones coming up for Spaced Ventures?
We launched our first investment offering in June during our closed beta. We have 2-3 investment opportunities that will go live within the next month, and plan to open up our beta beyond the current 4,000 person waitlist soon after that.
We’re also now investing in building out our SpacedBase dataset and will be launching new tools in the next 3-6 months. Our SpacedBase is an exciting educational tool that we use to help teach new space investors about the industry and what types of markets and companies there are in space.
Over the next year, we anticipate launching more financial products that will continue to provide options for space startups to raise and for space enthusiasts to invest in.
What advice do you have for aspiring space entrepreneurs?
Space entrepreneurship is incredibly important to the future of humanity. It’s also incredibly hard from a technical perspective and a business building perspective. I suggest that most early founders try to find a really strong and capable co-founder. I see a lot of folks try to do it themselves but get overwhelmed along the way.
I suggest that most early founders try to find a really strong and capable co-founder.
Also, reach out to the industry. Most of my experience has shown that, aside from a few bad apples, the industry is incredibly helpful and supportive. Chances are you’ll find a bunch of great advisors just by reaching out and telling your story to industry folks.
How can the public support you with your mission?
The best way readers can help is to sign up as an early access member and share the early access sign up with others.
We are preparing for our public launch and need the first wave of investors going through to be friendly and helpful. Help us get things started. The first ‘check’ is always the hardest to get. Also, help us find the bugs. No matter how much we test new features ahead of time, we’re almost guaranteed to have bugs in our site. We need ‘friendlies’ to find them before the world does :)
Keep in mind that any startup investing is incredibly risky, and investments on our platform are no different. So if you do invest, make sure you’re prepared, have done your own research on each company and are financially stable enough to lose the entire investment if it came to that.
Lastly, where can people find out more about Spaced Ventures and follow along?
The Spaced Ventures newsletter is where you can sign up for early access. Folks on that email list will be the first to hear about new offerings on the platform and other news.
Follow us, Brant and Aaron, on Linkedin. We’re pretty active there and share updates frequently.
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