Raising capital is often a struggle for NewSpace companies, especially in a region which is relatively unfamiliar with space technology. Often, space companies have to turn to individuals, private angel investors, and family offices for backing.
However, there are some Venture Capital (VC) firms willing, and even enthusiastic, to fund space companies operating out of Asia-Pacific, with interesting missions. Here are nine of them:
Australia-based Blackbird Ventures has made a name for itself by investing in up-and-coming Australian space companies like launch company Gilmour Space Technologies and satellite-based IoT company Fleet. Last year, it led Gilmour Space’s Series A, which saw a total investment of US$3.7million, as well as Fleet’s Series A, which raised a total of US$5 million. Most recently, Blackbird Ventures has invested in the seed round of a new Australian startup, Earth AI, which uses satellite imagery combined with artificial intelligence for mining exploration.
A Japan-based VC, Mistletoe Inc. invests in companies that can make a positive impact on the world. Its first space investment was in Singapore-based company Astroscale, which is working towards solving the problem of space debris. In 2015, it contributed Astroscale’s Series A, which amounted of US$7.7million, and also participated in the company’s 2016 Series B, where a total of US$35 million was raised. It has also invested in GNSS equipment developer Magellan Systems Japan and Coaido, which transports emergency medical aid via drones.
A giant in the early stage investment scene, Silicon Valley-based 500 Startups has made a few investments into space, including participating in Series A rounds of Gilmour Space and Japan-based antenna-sharing firm Infostellar. Besides Gilmour Space, it has also invested in US-based rocket company Firefly, which is developing the Firefly Alpha to take up to 1,000kg to Low Earth Orbit (LEO). In Southeast Asia, 500 Startups’ most notable investments have been in companies like Grab, Carousell and Viki (acquired for $200M).
Innovation Network Corporation Japan (INCJ), a public-private partnership and one of Japan’s largest VCs, invests mostly in early-stage startups from a variety of sectors including IT, energy, and aviation. Most of their investments are in Japan-based companies, but not exclusively. In the space industry INCJ has invested in the Series A of iSpace, which is developing lunar rovers. The investment round, held end-2017, saw a US$94.5M being raised. In November 2017, it declared that it would invest up to US$8M in the Institute for Q-shu Pioneers of Space, Inc. (iQPS) — more on iQPS below. INCJ has also invested in Dynamic Maps, a high precision 3D map data management for autonomous driving.
Another Japan-based VC, Real Tech Fund participated in the same iSpace Series A mentioned above. It has also invested in iQPS, the developer of a small Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) satellite which it says enables near real-time earth observation under all weather conditions. iQPS’ SAR satellite weighs less than 100kg, and was first launched in 2014. It has also invested in Challenergy, which recently announced its partnership with SKY Perfect JSAT to power ground stations.
An early-stage investment arm of Airbus, Airbus Ventures was opened in 2016 in Silicon Valley, with an initial fund of US$150M. Its only APAC investment so far has been in Infostellar’s Series A. Airbus Ventures has a base in Tokyo, and has announced that it will set up an aerospace fund in India, in a partnership with accelerator Airbus Bizlab.
The oldest VC in the U.S., Bessemer Venture Partners (BVP) has invested in a few space companies with an Asian presence – Rocket Lab, the launch services provider that launches from New Zealand, as well as Spire, whose Asian headquarters are in Singapore. It has also invested in US-based satellite imagery company Skybox Imaging. BVP has a very active India arm, having invested in 38 Indian companies so far, and is looking to expand its presence there.
An Australian investment company, Earth Space Robotics is the only company on this list that focuses on the commercial space industry. So far, it has invested in two companies – Fleet Space, as well as ion engine developer Neumann Space.
JAFCO Asia is a regional investment fund with interests throughout the Asia and a focus on Japan, China, Korea and Taiwan, and with its APAC headquarters in Singapore. It invests in both startups and larger companies. Some of its investments in space include Astroscale and GIS-solutions firm imaGIS.