‘Shark tank’ keeps aerospace dreams afloat

MatterFab 3-D printer
Seattle-based MatterFab is working on a 3-D printer that looks like a walk-in freezer but can use laser microwelding to make metal components out of powder. (Credit: MatterFab)

Some aerospace ventures came to Starburst Accelerator’s shark tank in Seattle today to find investors. Others were looking for customers. But unlike the TV version of “Shark Tank,” none of them was sent away in defeat.

“There are no winners or losers,” Van Espahbodi, Starburst’s co-founder and chief operating officer, told GeekWire at the end of the all-day pitch session.

Instead, a dozen entrepreneurs got the chance to pitch their ideas at the Museum of Flight, in front of venture capitalists, aerospace executives and other industry types (plus a couple of journalists).

Today’s gathering marked the first Starburst event conducted in Seattle, which has been gaining more visibility as an aerospace industry hub – thanks to the likes of such stalwarts as the Boeing Co. as well as more recent entrants such as Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space venture. Both of those companies had representatives in the audience today.

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Starburst raises $200M for aerospace startups

SpaceX launch
Starburst Ventures aims to back startups that can follow in SpaceX’s footsteps. (SpaceX Photo)

On the eve of its first event in Seattle, Starburst Accelerator says it has set up a $200 million venture fund to invest in aviation and aerospace startups over the next three years.

Starburst Venture, formed in collaboration with Singapore-based Leonie Hill Capital, will focus on early and growth-stage companies, with the first investments due to be made in the first quarter of 2017, the fund’s founders said today in a news release.

The investment team will be mainly based in San Francisco, but will also leverage Starburst Accelerator’s existing operations in Los Angeles, Paris, Munich and Singapore.

Starburst Accelerator was founded in 2012 by Francois Chopard, a former Airbus engineer and aerospace strategy consultant. Since then, it has teamed up with more than 100 companies to provide a boost for business development.

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