The commercialization of space has blown the playing field of the multi-billion dollar global space industry—which is expected to grow 8% this year—wide open to private companies, startups, venture capitalists and other high-profile investors.
Award-winning space engineer, Mike Lawton, the first founder to receive VC funding in the field of space technology in the UK, and who is now in the UAE seeking collaboration, told Inc. Arabia how tech startups can get a foothold in the industry.
One of the most common mistakes any form of tech startup makes when pitching to VCs is in translating their idea into a viable business model with a focus on ROIs, says Lawton, who founded Oxford Space Systems.
Here are some more secrets he shared with us.
Seek out local investors
Convincing an investor that you’re the real deal is much easier when you’re available on demand, Lawton advises. So choose an investor right on your doorstep.
“If you want to raise money for that first high-risk investment, you’re probably better hunting out an investor local to you…because if you’ve never done it before, you are going to need that help and support.”
“That VC is going to want to make sure his investment is safe, so there’s going to be a lot of face-time together initially.”
Make a simple business case
The secret to securing VC funds for new technologies is to make a solid business plan that convinces the investor in the simplest possible terms that they will soon be reaping returns.
“The secret to raising investment is about having a solid business case,” Lawton said. “VCs want to understand how you are going to make them rich, not necessarily the detail of the technology.”
“So the secret to raising money starts with that solid business case and the ability to communicate it in the language an investor needs to hear.”
Speak the investor’s language
Tech-minded entrepreneurs need to step outside their comfort zone, and talk in a language investors understand, Lawton explained.
The biggest mistake that tech startups make is “giving a technical presentation to an investor,” Lawton said. “What an investor wants to hear is a business presentation, the technology is a small element. So I think that’s the biggest mistake a tech-person can make.”
As the space industry enters a new dawn of miniaturization, stowage efficiency is everything, Lawton argued.
Lawton’s team has disrupted the space tech industry with light-weight, collapsible deployable structures, communication antennas, boom systems, and a new generation of solar panels that make launch costs tumble.
“The winner will be those that can make satellites far more capable, than what’s gone before, and by capable I mean packing far more functionality into a small footprint.”
“Every kilogram you want to lift into space is around $60,000 USD. So if I can save you half a kilo, that’s just paid someone’s salary.”
“What sets us apart is the fact we’re developing our novel materials for a new generation of deployable structures so we can be lighter, more stowage efficient and much much lower in cost.”
“Imagine a satellite the size of a shoe-box, with the functionality of a platform that was originally six tonnes.”
Have a Winning Team
Convincing angel investors and venture capitalists to shell out on ultra high-risk investments will require an all-star team who inspire confidence in their ability to deliver.
“I approached a venture capital firm that specializes in the seed investment stage for half a million,” Lawton explained.
Lawton said that the decision comes down to answering key questions:
“It’s down to the business case and who is the team who is going to deliver it, and who is the competition? Why is anyone going to buy your technology over other people, what’s the IP status like, can you protect this idea?”
“It’s surprisingly easy to raise money because money is always looking to make other money. So if you’ve got a great idea, there’s a lot of money out there.”