MaxQ is the Maximum Dynamic Pressure of a rocket tearing through the atmosphere as it races into space. It’s the point where the spacecraft is working hardest to push air out of the way as it continues to accelerate before it reaches an altitude where less air is there to push, so it can accelerate even faster.

At Moonshot, we’re approaching our moment of MaxQ. I get a lot of kudos and excited comments about all the great news coming out about Moonshot, but it’s far from roses and daisies over here. Too often we only see news of great things happening, and so it’s hard to appreciate what’s really going on behind the scenes. I’m a big believer in transparency, and I want to give you all a sneak peek behind the curtain as we scramble towards some big milestones in 2022.

I stand by the fact that starting a company to strategically bring people together to grow space tech startups is the best way to grow a vibrant space sector. However, with years of waiting before we have a chance of seeing a financial return on our blood, sweat and tears, without a large institution or larger alliance behind us to keep us going until then, it’s near impossible to reach sustainability no matter how much starting success and traction we’ve built in our first few years.

We get overwhelmingly positive reviews about the value we create from our startups and investors. The work we’re doing at Moonshot is noble and, for me, I’m certainly doing my life’s work. But the flywheel of compounding success sometimes feels like we’re building a fusion reactor: a theoretically possible generator of surplus energy, but so far an unreachable task because we haven’t been able to reach the critical amount of energy needed to kickstart the process to a sustainable level of production yet.

The amount of pain and effort that goes into Moonshot is incredibly taxing – both financially and mentally. At every step, there’s something new working against us – things like regulations designed for multi-million dollar hedge funds, or some other government requirement impeding our natural progress taking the heat out of our reactor before it can ignite.

If you think building a startup is hard, try building a startup to support startups – in space!

I love that governments are noticing the value of growing space ecosystems, but we have an interesting relationship with the government. We’ve supported governments at our own expense for several years, but in all the time we’ve been around none have ever returned support in-kind – financial or otherwise. Often, government organisations get in the way by doing things like stalling our conversations with local and international partners, or they offer financial partnerships that take years of unpaid work with an ever-shifting startline of conditions that mean we can’t actually use the funds if they ever come through.

It’s a painful process when civil servants tell us they wish they could support Moonshot, but despite our support of their missions, they can only support businesses working on tech because that’s more exciting to the public, so they give us a pat on the back and tell us to “keep up the good work”.  Meanwhile, we worry about how to get through the next cash flow cycle all while growing the businesses they need to see grow. State governments periodically attempt to launch competitive activities that are much more well capitalised than us, despite claiming they want to avoid ‘reinventing the wheel’. Moonshot is special because we have built things that government-led initiatives will never be able to do, so it’s a pity that too often we’re pitted against government initiatives. Together, we could do so much more. Alone, and especially in competition, Moonshot probably won’t survive, and we’ll all lose the unmatched ecosystem we’ve assembled.

I’m proud of having invested $800k into 10 startups so far and the volume is increasing exponentially. Our startups have created hundreds of new jobs across Australia and the globe. We are the most active investor in space tech in Australia, and we do so at the earliest opportunity – even before a company has been incorporated. In time I want to see Moonshot become the most active investor in space startups globally. But our current stats don’t compare well to the talk of billions of private investments supposedly being made into Australia’s space sector, for example, and so we’re often overlooked as being a significant growth mechanism. While governments fail to believe in power laws of growth and fail to identify analytical gymnastics for what it is, we can’t compete. If there really are billions of dollars of private investment being injected into the space sector today, it’s for sure not sufficiently reaching the space startups who are the future of Australia’s space capability.

As I see it, the proof is in the pudding. Paraphrasing the words of one of our startup founders, “Moonshot is the only group doing anything real to consistently support space startups in Australia. There’s a lot of talk with no action”. This is a common theme of feedback from several of our founders. In the words of one of our international mentors, too, “I’m a mentor at all of the worlds most well-known tech accelerators, but none compares to the quality and support offered by the Moonshot mentor network.”

Supporting space tech businesses is hard and non-trivial – if it wasn’t, our alliance of global space pioneers pooling their time and money together wouldn’t be in demand.

We know we’ve built something massively valuable. But in the presence of an increasing flow of positive news about our progress, we need to keep in mind that it could all end tomorrow if we don’t get the support needed to energise that fusion reactor.

But it’s not all doom and gloom!

As we lock down a financial licence so that Moonshot can be allowed to continue to operate, we’re preparing a brand new fund to invest in the next generation of space tech companies. That means another $600k mentor-driven fund for 12 more startups in 2022. If we’re lucky, we might even launch a second fund – a much larger one – we envision it will be in the region of 8 digits, levelling up Moonshot to invest in what we deem to be Stage 5 startups.

Moonshot has always been on a knife-edge. We’re punching above our weight and we will either fall flat or hit a home run. There’s no in-between. Today we’re looking for strategic financial partners who can link their products and platforms into our series of incubation and acceleration programs, giving us the cash flow we need to run them while reducing the friction for space tech founders and operators to build valuable startups. We have the first $300k of operational funding secured and need only another $30k in the next month to get a green light to launch our 2022 series of programs – our Bootcamp, Ideator, Pre-Accelerator and Accelerator – all in the same calendar year for the first time.  If this is interesting to you then reach out!

Similarly, if you work for a government and want to create a vibrant local space sector in your jurisdiction, much better than you could do by attempting to reinvent the wheel, then you should also reach out.

The next milestone will be securing at least $600k from investing mentors – new and old – for our 2022 fund. More on that later.

The heat is on

Our rocket is well on its way, heading towards the moon. With some luck, in the next few months, we’ll expand our team and we’ll have surpassed our point of MaxQ so that we can inch back from the edge of our seats and take a deep breath of fresh air.

For those of us at Moonshot’s mission control, we’re keenly aware that the worst-case scenario is just as likely. We’ve always said that a rising tide lifts all boats, though. While building a successful rocket ship isn’t easy, it’s one of the more incredible feats you can be a part of helping happen. This is your invitation. If you want a ticket for this Moonshot moon-shot then join us, because we’ll only get there with you joining our team.

So if you want to join our launch to the moon, then reach out.

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