Unique investors to space tech companies fell to 65 in 2016, after hitting a high of 111 in 2015.
With a regulatory embrace of private spaceflight (“new space”), spacecraft development costs falling, and better remote sensing and data analytics capabilities, funding to space tech companies has grown from almost nothing in 2012, to approximately $4B in combined funding over the past two years, buoyed especially by entrepreneur-celebrities Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos.
We used the CB Insights database to identify the most active private market investors in space tech and see how the emergence of unique investors in space tech has trended.
We define space tech to include startups involved in the construction and launch of satellites or rocketry into outer space, as well as ancillary companies working to aggregate and analyze satellite data. For more on space tech categories and specific companies, see the space tech market map.
Annual unique investors
Consistent with lower financing numbers in 2016, unique investors to space tech companies fell to 65 in 2016, after hitting a high of 111 in 2015.
One reason for the drop-off might be a lack of mega-rounds that raise more money and pique broader interest from (deep-pocketed) investors. OneWeb closed on a $1.2B financing round with 8 investors participating, but was the only round over $100M in 2016. Meanwhile, three 2015 mega-rounds ($100M+) saw lots of investor participation: SpaceX, O3b Networks (since acquired by SES for $710M) and OneWeb (in merger talks with NYSE-traded Intelsat) saw $2B in financing and 20 unique investors combined.
Most active venture investors
We ranked the top space tech venture investors by unique space tech investments.
Some takeaways from our list:
- Space Cowboys: Space Angels Network topped the list as the most active investor. The angel network has invested in 15+ companies, participating in $126M of total funding. On average, the group has cut smaller checks to a wider array of companies, whereas other top investors have participated in larger rounds to fewer companies.
- Early and Often: Founders Fund took second place, participating in 7 equity rounds to 4 companies that totaled nearly $230M. The firm’s bets range from spacecraft design and launch providers Accion Systems and SpaceX, to satellite operator and remote sensing platform Planet Labs. Founders Fund got in early at three of the four companies: Seed at Accion, and Series A at Planet Labs and SpaceX.
- Familiar Faces: Excluding Space Angels Network, the top investors hold the same 15 portfolio companies. Six of those 15 have received Series C funding and later. Terra Bella, once a portfolio company of Bessemer Venture Partners, was acquired by Google in 2014 and again by Planet Labs early this year. In total, these 15 companies have received the clear majority of funding to the sector: approximately $3.8B in total funding.
- Corporate Love: A major company absent from this list is (future) satellite operator OneWeb, which has received $1.72B in funding almost entirely from corporations and their venture arms, but not from any of the most active investors in the space. As mentioned, another satellite operate — Intelsat — is working to acquire the company with help from Masayoshi Son’s Softbank.
Note: Image showcases investments from each of the top investors. Exited companies are included, and highlighted. Alphabet includes Google, capitalG, and Google Ventures.
Click the image to enlarge.
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