Starburst Ventures, the venture capital arm of space accelerator operator Starburst Aerospace, today opened a new fund to invest in startups seeking to conquer the final frontier.
Founded in 2012, Starburst Aerospace operates accelerator programs for aerospace and defense companies in Los Angeles, as well as six other cities around the world, including Tel Aviv, Seoul and Paris. The programs connect startups with industry experts and potential investors, with the goal of helping each company secure contracts.
Often Starburst will cut checks to fund Accelerator participants it finds promising; despite being its first formal venture capital fund, Starburst has been investing in startups regularly for years. Its network of partners is extensive and includes NASA, the US Space Force and nearly all major government contractors including Raytheon, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman.
The Los Angeles outfit Starburst previously partnered with TechStars from 2019 to incubate space ventures, but Starburst launched its first dedicated direct investment fund on September 21. In combination with TechStars, the former Starburst accelerator has worked with 20 companies, but the outfit said it has helped grow 120 companies since 2015.
Starburst Ventures wouldn’t disclose the full value of the fund, but Benjamin Zeitoun, director of Starburst’s LA and Paris accelerator programs and investor at Starburst Ventures, told dot.LA, “Currently our plan is to invest up to $1 million, down to Series A, with a sweet spot in the middle.
The new fund will support early-stage startups focused on both hardware and software for the aerospace, defense, aviation and security industries. Founder and CEO of Starburst Aerospace Francois Chopard will lead the venture capital firm as general partner.
“We are looking at the entire aviation, space and defense value chain, as well as some high-tech topics that can have a big impact on our industry,” Zeitoun said. ” We see [second] and sometimes [third] generation new space, aviation [and] defense companies where the founders and talents have had an experience of innovation in the industry. They also bring lessons learned and a deep understanding of a problem they want to solve. The LA area (and SoCal) is a very large pool of this talent.
One local startup that has already benefited from this new fund is Outpost, a reusable satellite company that in August raised a $7.1 million seed round led by Moonshots Capital – Starburst invested in this round.
Another recent investment from the new fund was Starburst’s backing of Australian machine learning company Strong Compute, which raised a $7.8 million seed round in May.
Advisors to the fund include Jacqueline Tame, a longtime space and defense policy adviser and former co-director of the Defense Department’s Artificial Intelligence Center, and Bloom Energy’s chief strategy officer Natalya Bailey. Tame and Bailey will also act as mentors for Starburst startups.
“We are fortunate to have Ms. Tame and Ms. Bailey, not aloof ‘board capacity’, but very active advisors who help us find great founders, do due diligence and to support the businesses we have invested in,” Zeitoun said.
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