“Successful business development requires the same discipline, rigor, and resiliency that any other worthwhile endeavor requires.”- Adam Velie, Opportunity Pipeline Manager at Booz Allen Hamilton
The fifth on-week of the On-Orbit Servicing, Assembly, and Manufacturing (OSAM) Accelerator was very inspiring thanks to each of the subject matter experts who donated their time to speak with the cohort and the virtual Catalyst Collision Event. The Catalyst Collision Event was a 4-day pitch event where 23 startups and small businesses (including the 8 OSAM cohort companies) had the opportunity to present their innovative, dual-use, space-related technologies to Government tech scouts. The opening speaker for the event was Dr. Joel Mozer, Chief Scientist at the United States Space Force (USSF). Dr. Mozer discussed some of the USSF goals in space and the various needs for the Catalyst Accelerator program. He kicked off the event by stating, “The needs for space logistics are here today. Let’s all make some history!”. The OSAM cohort pitched their technologies and networked with the Government tech scouts on day one of the event. Then, they participated in a scaling and business panel with Mark Stafford, President and Chief Executive Officer at Delta Solutions and Strategies, Robin Yeman, Chief Technical Officer at Catalyst Campus for Technology and Innovation, and Rebecca Decker, Chief Operating Officer at Bluestaq. Mark Stafford offered some wonderful advice to the cohort by stating, “Scaling a business is an exciting and stressful endeavor. It is critical to build your company culture from the beginning to ensure long term success.” Rebecca Decker reminded them that, “As a founder, launching a business in the government technology sector, don’t be afraid to invest in services and support that will keep your company out of trouble. Realize that as a founder, you can’t do everything at an expert level, focus on what you’re good at, and outsource functions like contracting, legal, and accounting to the professionals.”
As part of the Catalyst Collision Event, the cohort had the opportunity to listen to three public “pathways to success” panel discussions from Tuesday through Thursday. The first panel was hosted by Maj Greg Sundbeck, Chief of Acquisitions at Defense Innovation Unit (DIU), Gil Valdes, Business Development Lead at Analytical Space, and Orin Hoffman, Venture Partner at The Engine. This incredibly insightful panel was focused on the AFWERX’s STRATFI/TACFI Program and Private Investment to show the impact these two entities can have on small businesses. They shared tips and challenges for other small businesses looking into the STRATFI/TACFI and how small businesses have benefitted from this program. The second panel was focused on the various tips, tricks, and challenges for small businesses who are thinking about being acquired. Ken O’Neil from The O’Neil Group, Michael Misantone of Kipps DeSanto, and Tim Schmitt of Parsons Corporation facilitated this conversation. Ken’s previous company, Braxton Science & Technology Group, was acquired by Parsons Corporation and the broker for this acquisition was Kipps Desanto. The last “pathways to success” panel had a focus on commercialization within U.S. and foreign markets hosted by three Catalyst Accelerator alumni companies. During this time, Jatin Bains of Space-Eyes, Peter Round of Kleos Space, and Vrinda Kapoor of 114 AI discussed the different pathways they each took to expand their market in the United States and beyond. Thank you to each of the panelists who donated their time to speak to the Space Community and offer wonderful advice.
Phil Schmidt, Program Manager at Ball Aerospace and Daniel Downs, Technical Lead at Leidos each briefed to the OSAM cohort about what their companies are doing in space and their perspectives on the current problem statement. When Phil Schmidt was asked for some tips to offer the cohort he mentioned, “1) Know your customer and what is valuable to them. 2) Know how your product helps their mission. In two minutes, you should be able to tell a customer what the mission impact is. 3) Know what and how you are going to charge for your service/product. If I said I wanted your product, how much would it cost and what does the contract look like.” The Catalyst Accelerator is so lucky that Ball Aerospace and Leidos are Sherpas and sponsors for the OSAM cohort. They have offered an incredible amount of insight and guidance.
On the final day of the Catalyst Collision Event, the 23 companies, along with an additional 7 companies, participated in a Tech Gallery where each showcased their technology for Government tech scouts and leaders in the Space Community. The week wrapped up with a closing ceremony hosted by Brett Scharringhausen, Chief of Discovery and Innovation at DAFC USCENTCOM CCJ8-Science and Technology, Brig Gen D. Jason Cothern, Vice Commander of the Space and Missile Systems Center, and Col Eric Felt, Director of Air Force Research Laboratory and Commander of Philips Research Site. Col Felt closed with three important pieces of advice for small, innovative businesses within the space industry. He said, “1) Look for non-financial partnering opportunities (CRADAs, testing agreements). 2) Look for commercial customers. Commercial market is much more dynamic than the government market. We would like to be one of your customers, but we don’t want to be your only customer. The commercial customers will often carry a company through the “valley of death” much more successfully than merely relying on government customers. 3) Look broadly for opportunities. Keep your eye on all possible government funding and contracting opportunities”
OSAM Cohort Company Spotlight:
Benchmark Space Systems has announced an in-space mobility offering that allows customers to pay as they go for in-space transport. SCOUT and Orbit Fab have signed on with agreements for the service! Keep up the amazing work! The Catalyst Accelerator team is so proud of you.