Spaced Ventures wants to be Kickstarter for early-stage space startups

The crowdfunding site has raised $409K across three companies, and came out of beta this month.
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Spaced Ventures

· 5 min read

Space isn’t accessible to the average person. Yes, SpaceX just successfully sent four civilian astronauts into orbit, but it still took a billionaire dropping $200 million to make it happen.

Spaced Ventures, a space crowdfunding website started in 2020, is seeking to upend this—particularly around investing in early-stage space startups. . Traditionally, funding has almost exclusively stemmed from government initiatives and wealthy private orgs or individuals.

Earlier this month, Spaced Ventures, which allows anyone who is interested to invest as little as $100, announced its departure from beta. Cofounder and CEO Aaron Burnett told us so far it’s raised a total of $409K for three pre-seed space companies, with an average investment of ~$1,500 per funder.

We caught up with Burnett to chat about Spaced Ventures’ own moonshot to make space dreams a reality.

How did the idea for Spaced Ventures come about?

I saw the Falcon Heavy boosters landing side by side back in 2018, when there was a Tesla in space, and my brain essentially broke wide open— “I need to figure out how to be involved in the space industry.”

We wanted to get normal people, not just millionaires, involved in investing in space companies because there’s so much passion around it, so much interest, so much enthusiasm. At the end of the day, unless you’re an aerospace engineer or a billionaire, you’re kind of locked out. There are certain things you can and can’t do, though it’s becoming more and more common to have normal jobs at space companies. Before that when I was starting this, there were no real great opportunities there. My passion was trying to figure out how to get people, the normal people, involved in aerospace and the future of humanity.

There’s not enough people, and there’s not enough VCs investing in prerevenue space companies. They don’t understand that risk. If we can diversify risk across a large number of people, people investing a hundred bucks at a time, you know, small investments, we can all feel happy with the idea that we’re taking a lot of risks because it’s a small amount of money, but we are hopefully putting down a bet on the future of humanity, essentially. That it’s going to be some really cool shit happening over the next five, 10 years. And so that’s kind of the way we envision this.

What kind of companies do you crowdfund?

We’ve got [our] first ones doing AI in space [Exo-Space]...Then the next one coming out is the radiation shielding one [Cosmic Shielding Corporation]...That’s an interesting company because they’ve got some cool stuff happening and their shielding has some really promising characteristics. Shielding not only people, but then also like actual spacecraft and lengthening their lifetimes and lifecycles and things like that...We have three deals and then the fourth and fifth deals should have at least an interest period, like a test-the-waters period, is what it’s called officially. It just means you can reserve a spot if you want to invest.

What’s the average amount people invest through the platform?

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I think it’s closer to $1,500. From my experience of seeing investments happen, if someone wants to write a $25,000 check, they’ll often go directly to the company and the company will put together specific paperwork for that person, because it’s kind of worth the hassle of going back and forth on the details on the contract and all that stuff. In a crowd scenario, you kind of say, “Here is the contract, here’s the details, take it or leave it.” What that means is most people write lower check sizes, but we’ve already seen some pretty substantially higher check sizes than I had anticipated.

We’ve seen a bunch of $100 check sizes too. But that's the cool thing about this. You get to invest with a small amount of money. I’m very open and transparent about it. Just think about this: No one is going to be buying a yacht off of one $100 investment. Let’s be honest about this—just do math, right? That would have to be the unicorn of unicorns of unicorns for it to make you enough money to buy a yacht. It would have to have so many zeros on the multiple that you may get a headache.

I like to set expectations. I’ve seen some crowdfunding portals that use pictures of yachts in their advertisements, and I’m like, come on. That’s not real. No one’s buying a yacht off of this, I'm sorry. I mean, maybe the person who put $100,000 into that, but they didn’t need crowdfunding to do it.

But for someone who’s putting in $100, it can help your portfolio over the long run. It can help with investing. I would argue the best part about it is that you actually get to know the company you’re investing in. You see who they are, and you believe in them long term, and you’re putting your money down. And if they do make it big, you actually get a piece of that reward.

What standards do you set for the companies you work with?

Every funding portal has a requirement by law to set what’s, I believe to be, a fairly basic layer of standards. Like it’s the bare minimum. You have bad-actor checks, you put people against the list. Have they tried to take out investors’ money before? Have they done bad things before? Are they bad actors? That’s the easy one.

And then we also look for misleading statements. Every funding portal does this, and they’re required by law. Are they making claims that are unrealistic? With our process we do quite a robust space due diligence. We actually don’t publicize this quite frankly...if we publicize too much about it, people may consider that means that there’s less risk with our companies, and I think any early-stage company, there’s too much risk to assume that there’s quality. My hope is that over time, the quality is so obvious that it’s a visceral feeling—that everything on Spaced Ventures is super high quality.

This conversation has been edited for clarity and brevity.

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