Adventures In Deep Space

A blog about turning our "crazy" big idea to transform deep space exploration into a real company (click on header above to view this blog's home page)

Santa Cruz Accelerates Newsletter Feature

November 03, 2021 — Thomas Leavitt

Haven't been blogging as much, been very focused on consulting work and other activities. After a bit of a delay, we managed to get the company featured in the newsletter of the Santa Cruz Accelerator that we're working with, on October 21st: Santa Cruz Accelerates#20: Space.Org

In other news, we're talking with California Manufacturing Technology Consulting® (CMTC) about some of the programs and opportunities available thorugh them.

Tags: cmtc, resources, incubators, media

Santa Cruz Acclerates Launch Party, Preliminary Take on Product

October 08, 2021 — Thomas Leavitt

My partner and I attended the Santa Cruz Accelerates Launch Party on Wednesday evening. We got free fish tacos and a little bit of networking in. Their theme is "launching your new business into orbit", which kind of messhes well with what Space.Org is doing, LOL.

Here's a picture from the event (more at the URL above), you can find us sitting down in the upper left hand corner of the screen, my partner, John McEntee, is just to the right of me.

Here's a current picture of me to help find us.

Our lead engineer has been working furiously to come up with an initial iteration of the product. Here's a couple of images exported from Solidworks that show sample instantiations of the product design.

Tags: incubators, accelerators, product, events, images

Brief Update: New Logo Prototype, 'Getting to Wow!', networking, development, patience is a virtue

September 29, 2021 — Thomas Leavitt

Check out the new logo! Vast improvement over the DIY via SaaS thing I came up with earlier. Still more to do, I think, but very cool. Ironically, and this wasn't at all planned, it's based on the same image that my partner and I used in my first startup at Web Communications, LLC (aka WebCom): NASA's "Earthrise" image.

Not a lot of blogging, because my energy has been focused on other things. Watched Bill Reichert of Pegasus Ventures do an online keynote for the Santa Cruz Founders Institute on the topic of 'Getting to Wow!' on Your Pitch, which is also a title of a book he has on sale at Amazon, Getting to Wow! Silicon Valley Pitch Secrets for Entrepreneurs. Lots of good stuff in it, I took notes. Core concept: every time you open your mouth to talk about your company, you're "pitching". In this age of distraction, you've got 20 seconds to cut through the noise and get someone's attention.

Did a bit of networking this week, trying to set up a couple of more "informational interviews" with folks in the industry. Now that we're a bit farther along (see below), this should be even more interesting and illuminating.

Speaking of "farther along". I've teamed up with a very smart and experienced engineeer / entreprenuer who has a good grasp of the technical aspects of designing and manufacturing satellites and satellite components. He's been working on putting together a draft design in Solidworks (the industry standard for manufacturing oriented 3D CAD) over the past few days. We share the same excitement over the potential this idea has.

One of the things I've (re)learned over the course of the past year and a half, on another project, is that engineering takes time, and happens on it's own schedule (especially in a sweat equity funded startup). Whether it's designing and writing software and systems automation, or hardware design and modeling, it takes time to do it right (and avoid creating more work for your company and engineers down the line).

Tags: logo, reading, thepitch, incubators, design, development, process

PowerPoint Pitch Decks

September 01, 2021 — Thomas Leavitt

One of the incubators that I'm in the early stage of talking with gave me a "Slide Deck" PowerPoint template, which I spent a chunk of tonight working through. Had to create a "McKinsey Matrix", among other "entertaining" tasks.

"Decks", and everything that goes into them, are all part of the "price of entry", "table money", for playing the startup game, at least when you're pursing a project (like this one) that is clearly going to require "real money" to get take flight (at some point). External investment is always a last resort, due to the constraints (aka "golden handcuffs") it puts on you, and the pressure to generate immediate financial returns or otherwise justify further investment it imposes. You want to take it on the most favorable terms possible, which means as late in the game as possible, but not at the price of stunting your growth or your ability respond to unexpected developments in a timely fashion.

The people you'll be presenting your deck to are sophisticated professional investors; in many cases, they've started more than one company in this area themselves. They know that, especially early on, most numbers are highly speculative (though where they can be solid, they'd better be accurate and reasonable). The numbers are there to demonstrate that the company's founders have done their due diligence, thought through the problem in detail, and understand the market.

Everyone understands that the numbers in your multi-year financial and sales forecast are a bunch of hooey, but at the same time, they serve a real and valid purpose: making the case that, should the chips fall right, there's money to be made by investing in your project. That there's a pony in there somewhere. "Brilliant ideas" are a dime a dozen. Ones that can make money, well, they're a bit more rare.

Tags: thepitch, incubators, startups, decks, powerpoint, presentations, thegame

Tonight's Adventures: Joining SSPI, Networking, Higher Math, Founder Institute

August 26, 2021 — Thomas Leavitt

I'm grinding through Khan Academy's Trigonometry course, as review for Chapter 4 in the "Understanding Space" book, which lists Vector Math and Calculus as a requirement. The last time I did higher math was back around 2005, when I spent a semester at Cabrillo College exclusively focused on passing Calculus (math has always been a weak point for me)... so this is going to be interesting in the Confucian sense. I succeeded at passing the class (fourth try since High School), and in the process, worked my way through most of Calculus and Pizza: A Cookbook for the Hungry Mind. When I showed him where I was in the book, our instructor told me that I'd essentially finished not only the current semester's work, but the next one as well. When I set my mind to doing something, I tend to overdo it

I joined Space and Satellite Professionals International (SSPI) so that I could join their LinkedIn group, and thought it would be an interesting vehicle for networking. Also joined some other LinkedIn groups. Trying to find a venue where I can make contact with engineers, possibly a technical co-founder or two.

I'm evaluating whether or not the Founder Institute is the right path for me; the $799 price for the course is a secondary factor to the time investment, and the appropriateness of the model for where I'm at in the process. I'm asking a few of my advisors and network members for their take.

Tags: sspi, incubators, networking, math, reading

Incubators and Seed Funding

August 20, 2021 — Thomas Leavitt

One of the logical components to this process is enrolling, virtually (highly preferable), in an incubator or startup accelerator program. To that end, I'm researching various options that spespecialize in working with space related startups. I'll list these below as I find them.


Seed Venture Funds

  • TheVentureCity - "committed to building a diverse network of portfolio companies, stakeholders and ecosystem of partners."

Tags: bizdev, incubators, accelerators, venture-capital, funding