In his own words: Founder/CEO, Peter Beck
Three weeks to get a term sheet or be run out of town
When Rocket Lab reached the point where we’d been successful in the traditional aerospace world and we had gained enough credibility, I decided that it was time to deliver on what we set out to do since the inception of the company. It was time to raise capital. I jumped on a plane and arrived in Silicon Valley and was incredibly green. I’d only heard stories of U.S. venture capital, and I was told I’d be eaten alive. I gave myself three weeks to be run out of town or get a term sheet.
I was looking for someone who sees the vision of doing something really big, not just a pure equity or financial play, someone who shares the dream of making a difference.
Credibility and grit
It was important to raise capital from the right people. I could have raised money in New Zealand through high net worth individuals or emerging venture firms, but with a project of this nature and magnitude, we need lots of credibility and grit to get the job done. I was looking for someone who sees the vision of doing something really big, not just a pure equity or financial play, someone who shares the dream of making a difference. It was a real eye opener for me. The first thing I learned was that most people thought I was crazy coming from New Zealand to raise money to build a rocket. In general, raising money is hard, let alone raising money to build a rocket. KV quickly came up on my radar. I actually only approached three firms. As far as I’m concerned, I’m in love with KV. Honestly. KV shares my vision. When we got KV on board, the New Zealand government also came on board off the back of the financing. Everyone else wanted to be on board, too; it was a stamp of approval, a sign that this is going to happen.
Left to do my job
A lot of companies in New Zealand who have New Zealand venture funding struggle. The board becomes too involved in the day-to-day operations of the company. With KV, I’m left to do my job and get it done. They are on call if I need help, but I set out to deliver, and there’s no interference. When you’re building rockets, things go wrong, you have hardware failures that set you back, but with KV, they understand that. It’s just fantastic to have the ability to go out and get it done without being micromanaged. And also know that when issues arise, you have all the support and power in the world to help solve them.
Making space more accessible
What we’re fundamentally trying to do is change the space industry. In 50 odd years, it hasn’t changed. There are two key elements that need to occur to have an impact. If you buy your own rocket today in America, the cheapest one is $60 million, while the average rocket is $132 million. It gets really hard to start your own space business if you need to raise $60 million. It’s hard to be commercially viable. The second aspect is responsiveness. Last year, there were 19 launches out of the U.S. Imagine there being only 19 freight flights out of the U.S.; the world would go into a hole. We’re only going to space 19 times a year, that’s pathetic. If people can commercially access space without spending a billion dollars, the possibilities are limitless.We can’t do anything substantial if we can’t get the frequency up. By launching large numbers of small satellites it quickly becomes commercially feasible to do really exciting things in space. There are all sorts of inspiring things people want to do in space, but it’s hard if we can’t increase launch capacity and reduce cost.
The possibilities are limitless
Vinod and Sven see the bigger vision of making space more accessible. We can do all sorts of interesting things. Today, in the U.S., there’s a sum total of 30 satellites that do all the weather monitoring for the entire nation, which includes disaster prediction and climate science. Only 30 and they are all aging. Imagine what would happen if we put 3,000 satellites up; we could do real-time measurements with a whole new suite of sensors, but it costs a lot of money to get to space. If people can commercially access space without spending a billion dollars, the possibilities are limitless. So many exciting things can happen, things that no one has even thought of yet.