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商业 - 航空和运输

风投“疯投”航天业:投资额超前15年之和

Clay Dillow 2016年03月16日

随着SpaceX等一些公司已经取得了显著的成功,更多投资者也开始将航天领域当成类似传统的科技领域来看待——也就是说,他们认为航天领域也能像传统科技领域一样,可以迅速将产品投入市场,并在相对较短的时间内产生收益。


2015年,风投界向大大小小的商用航天创业公司累计投资超过18亿美元,比该行业之前15年间获得的所有风投资金还要多近一倍。

弗吉尼亚州的航空航天与国防业咨询机构金牛集团(Tauri Group)最近发布的一份报告表明,航天领域创业公司在2015年跨过了一个重大的拐点——至少在风投机构眼中是这样。风投机构正在争先恐后地以前所未有的热情向这些年轻的创业公司进行投资。

商用航天业之所以能迎来硕果累累的一年,源于注入该行业的一些重大投资——根据这份报告,这些重大投资指的是靠天使投资和风险投资起家的创业公司所获得的种子资金、风投或私募投资,包括谷歌(Google)和富达(Fidelity)向伊隆·马斯克的SpaceX投资的10亿美元,卫星通讯公司OneWeb的一轮5亿美元的融资,以及亚马逊(Amazon)创始人杰夫·贝索斯为空间发射创业公司Blue Origin进行的重大投资等。

这份研究还指出,2015年,其他50多家风投机构也向航天企业进行了投资,这表明一向被人们认为风险过高、收益太慢的航天行业,已经成了风投界眼中的热土。

“非航天行业针对航天领域的投资行为的确达到了史无前例的水平。2015年是投资额非常大的一年,尤其是对于这些创业公司来说。” 金牛集团执行董事卡莉莎·克里斯坦森表示。克里斯坦森同时担任了多家商用航天创业公司的顾问。

从2000年到2015年年末,航天行业的创业公司共获得了133亿美元的投资,包括29亿美元的风险投资。其中有18亿美元,即三分之二的风投资本是在去年投入的。克里斯坦森认为,风险投资的大量涌入,说明投资者对航天行业的认知发生了转变。

以往航天行业的创业公司所获得的投资,主要是由像伊隆·马斯克这样对太空旅行感兴趣的“倡导型投资者”,以及与轨道技术有战略利益相关的企业(如电信公司、卫星电视运营商等)提供的。

而现在,随着SpaceX等一些公司已经取得了显著的成功,更多投资者也开始将航天领域当成类似传统的科技领域来看待——也就是说,他们认为航天领域也能像传统科技领域一样,可以迅速将产品投入市场,并在相对较短的时间内产生收益。不过,克里斯坦森表示,这些产品和收益一般与航天的关系不大,而是更偏重于信息方面。

“SpaceX打开了这扇门,但是真正为行业带来投资的是数据。”克里斯坦森指出。很多航天业的创业公司,比如Sprie、Planet Labs、Mapbox、BlackSky Global和Orbital Insight等,都是将自身定位成一个天基数据链的角色,他们要么制造和管理着一批小型地球测绘卫星,要么就是在分析这些卫星搜集的数据。这种小型卫星只要数量上部署得足够多,就能定期实时提供全球的岛瞰图像。同时这些公司提供的数据还可以用来监测全球的经济活动。

克里斯坦森表示:“之所以会出现这一幕,并不是因为航天,甚至也不是因为测绘技术,而是因为这些卫星能够产生大量的数据,而这些数据能够为全球的企业政策和工业活动提供见解——比如在企业供应链、石油生产、海运或海事活动等方面。”

投资者们认为,这些数据还有很多价值没有被开发出来,这些价值,再加上小型卫星零部件成本的下降,导致了投资者对年轻的航天创业公司的态度也发生了转变。克里斯坦森认为,在将来一段时间,最重要的问题是,哪些公司能够迈出当前的“待产出”阶段,开始产出风投机构真正期盼的东西——投资收益。

她表示:“有些人已经通过高估值赚到了钱,但是目前还没有人通过销售产品赚到钱。因此,眼下的确是一段非常令人兴奋的时间,因为我们可以观察到这些公司的表现。究竟谁能赚到钱,什么时候能赚到钱,这将是一个非常有趣的问题。”(财富中文网)

译者:朴成奎

Venture capital firms invested $1.8 billion in commercial space startups in 2015, nearly doubling the amount of venture cash invested in the industry in all of the previous 15 years combined. A new report released by Virginia-based aerospace and defense consultancy The Tauri Group suggests that space startups turned a major corner in 2015, at least in the eyes of venture capital firms that are now piling money into young space companies with unprecedented gusto.

A handful of significant investments in space startups—defined in the report as angel- and venture-backed companies that have received seed, VC, or private equity investment—drove the industry’s banner year. Those included a $1 billion investment in Elon Musk’s SpaceX from Google GOOG -0.33% and Fidelity, a $500 million funding round by satellite communications company OneWeb, and significant investments by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos in space launch startup Blue Origin. But the study also found that more than 50 venture capital firms invested in space companies in 2015, signaling that venture capital has warmed to a space industry it has long considered both too risky and too slow to yield returns.

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“It’s really an unprecedented level of investment activity by non-space actors in space,” says Carissa Christensen, managing partner of The Tauri Group and adviser to several commercial space startups. “The core message is that its been a very large investment year for space, and particularly for these kinds of companies.”

From 2000 through 2015, space startups reeled in $13.3 billion in investment cash, including $2.9 billion in venture capital. A full $1.8 billion—or roughly two-thirds—of that venture capital was invested last year alone. The influx of all that VC cash suggests a shifting perception among investors, Christensen says.

Investment in space-related startups was once largely dominated by “advocacy investors” passionate about space travel (think Elon Musk) and corporations with strategic interests in Earth orbit (telecoms, satellite TV providers, etc.). Now, thanks to a handful of very visible successes from companies like SpaceX, a broader base of investors are looking at space startups as more traditional tech investments—the kind that rapidly bring a product to market and generate revenue in the relatively near term. Those products and revenues generally have less to do with space and more to do with information, Christensen says.

“SpaceX opened the door, but what really brought on the investment is data,” she says. A slew of space industry startups—companies like Spire, Planet Labs, Mapbox, BlackSky Global, and Orbital Insight—have attracted venture funds by positioning themselves along a space-based data supply chain, either by building and managing constellations (or future constellations) of small Earth-imaging satellites or by managing and crunching the data those satellites collect. Deployed in large enough numbers, these constellations can provide a regularly refreshing bird’s-eye views of the entire planet—data sets from which companies can monitor global economic activity.

“The play is not because it’s space,” Christensen says. “The play is not even because it’s imagery. The play is because these satellite systems are going to create large data sets, and those data sets yield insight into corporate policy and industrial activity around the globe—things like corporate supply chains, oil production, or shipping and maritime activity.”

Investors see a lot of untapped value in those data sets, and coupled with the falling cost of small satellite components that value is changing investor attitudes toward young space startups. The question going forward, Christensen says, is which companies can move beyond their current pre-revenue stage and begin providing the kinds of returns on investment venture capital firms expect.

“Some people have made money through high valuations, but no one has yet made money just by making money—by selling product,” she says. “That’s why it’s a really exciting time to see how these companies perform. Now the interesting question is going to be: How does this play out in terms of who delivers and when?”

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