A new day, a new year, and an anniversary.
It is the 1st of January, 2018. 17 years ago, I started my first “space” company. I launched it in honor of Arthur C Clarke’s famous story of 2001: A Space Odyssey. I knew I wanted to develop something in ‘space’. I had no idea, then, where this journey would lead me. Some might argue that I STILL don’t know where I’m going. I would concur.
That company, long-since dissolved, was the start.
My Internet company was winding down. We had survived the first round of the dot-com crash of 1998-99, but we were unable to really recover from our height of 24 people working ‘round the clock to hit a client deadline. I could see the writing on the wall, that despite our commitment, talent, and dedication, that our Internet company was doomed. It is hard to pull the plug on something you care about. Harder still, is quitting when other people are still committed to the idea. Hardest of all, is accepting the realities of the situation, and telling your team that we were closing. (I’ve had to do that twice in my career. It doesn’t get easier. I’m glad it doesn’t get easier; I wouldn’t want to be the kind of leader who thinks it’s easy to axe people who were doing good and important work.)
But I still had my building, and lots and lots of free-time. I didn’t know what was next… But I had a lot of options. I was about 32 years old, and while I didn’t have a lot of cash in the bank (that cash had gone to keep the Internet company on life support as long as possible) I did have an asset that regularly spit out ongoing cashflow/rent every month. It wouldn’t take very long for me to stabilize once the I closed the Internet company (a few months from then; it turns out that it is very difficult and time-consuming to close down an operation of our size. Although, to be fair, we were just 6 of us, by then.) So I was young, had substantial excess cashflow, a big real estate asset which was gaining in value all the time, and I was bored.
What was I going to do next?
I went to my friends and family. I went to the ‘net to do some research. I read a lot of books – mostly science fiction. I daydreamed, and I flew my kite from the roof-top of my building.
Sometimes, epiphanies come in a flash. I’ve had those a time or two. Other times, like this one, they sneak up slowly, until the answer is so glaringly obvious that you can’t help but accept it as a new truth.
I was going to build a space company…
But what did that even mean? In the Fall of 2000, there was no such thing as a SpaceX, or Blue Origin – proving that a commercial space company was viable. The idea I had was considered nonsense by most ‘experts’ in the field. As far as most people were concerned, you could only build a space project one way, with three routes to the same destination: government funding via the military, government funding via NASA, or government funding via NASA – through a big contractor.
The patronage model – as proven by Paul Allen, Richard Branson, Elon Musk, Sergey Brin, and Jeff Bezos – had not come into fashion. Yet. There were some outliers, like “Reverend” Rick Tumlinson and his space cowboys at the Space Frontier Foundation; but I had not met them, yet. (And they might have pioneered the patronage model, by working with Walt Anderson as the first wealthy backer to support the first commercial space station: watch “Orphans of Apollo” for more on that story.) Certainly, there wasn’t any venture capital for space, yet. I don’t believe the Space Angel’s Network existed yet. I am sure that Jeff Greason’s XCOR hadn’t broken that particular glass-ceiling of VC capitalization until several years later.
So here I was, not sure what I was doing next; but I had the capacity, and interest. So, I started poking around the ‘net. Looking for opportunities that would match my ambition, skills, and assets.
As with most things when you’re learning how to do them, there are stumbles and mis-steps. It wasn’t until the Fall of 2001 when I first met Dr. Edwards, that I caught my first glimpse of what the future might hold.
We are nearing the end of the second decade of the 21st century. I have been working on Space Elevators for about 17 years now. And it is only now, this year, when I begin to have hope that all the false starts, cul de sacs, and quicksand we’ve run into, are at an end. It is only now that I begin to have hope that we will succeed in building our Lunar Space Elevator Infrastructure.
Thank you for joining me on this amazing adventure.
Happy New Year!
President, LiftPort Group