The Forrest Four-Cast: October 2, 2016
At the YTexas Relo Awards on Friday evening in Dallas, I was honored to present the Innovator of the Year trophy to Tom Markusic of the Austin-based startup Firefly Space Systems. Being selected to present this trophy was a huge thrill — and I enjoyed some great networking before and after the ceremony. Connecting with Markusic during the pre-ceremony dinner and learning more about his ongoing entrepreneurial journey was particularly exciting.
Like all entrepreneurial journeys, this one has scene plenty of peaks and valleys. The Innovator of the Year award helped put a positive spin on what was likely a very difficult Friday for Firefly. Earlier in the day, Spaceflight Insider reported that the IP lawsuit against Firefly had turned in favor of Virgin Galactic. Also on September 30, Austin Inno wrote about the company’s current cash-flow challenges. To his credit, Markusic didn’t shy from addressing these funding problems when he accepted his award at the YTexas event in Dallas.
As noted in his acceptance speech, space startups require significantly more funding than entrepreneurial efforts that are more focused on software or hardware. Matching the high-stakes for funding are the high-profile nature of failures in this arena. If a butterfly in South America can cause a ripple effect across the world, then consider how a giant explosion in Florida from industry leader SpaceX can negatively impact the confidence of potential global investors in smaller such efforts. Even more uncertainty surrounding the cause of this September explosion makes the landscape for this young industry even more shaky.
Yes, self-driving cars are getting a ton of attention these days. But private space exploration is another important element of the overall disruption of today’s transportation industry. In fact, these two sectors share a lot of the same obstacles. Self-driving cars and private space exploration are two of the most intriguing developments for humankind. But both still face many hurdles (and many years) before they develop into fully functional industries.