Oct. 3, 2018

#48 Will This Space Startup Make It off the Ground?

#48 Will This Space Startup Make It off the Ground?

Atomos co-founders Vanessa Clark and William Kowalski want to build a nuclear-powered spacecraft for moving satellites around in orbit. Can they capitalize on all the new money flowing into the final frontier — or will their sci-fi ambitions be too much for investors to stomach? 

Today's investors are Howie Diamond, Jillian Manus, Phil Nadel, and Michael Hyatt.


Enjoying the podcast? Use this link to text a friend!


Become an insider

Go behind-the-scenes with the founders and investors on The Pitch



Vanessa: So it’s one of the things that’s really frustrating. I mean, what progress have we seen NASA do really since the Apollo mission?


Vanessa Clark and William Kowalski are here with a pitch that will get space nerds everywhere *pretty* excited. The next wave of space tech - think crewed missions to Mars, space tourism - is fast approaching. But it’s not NASA funding a lot of these projects - it’s venture capital. Can today’s startup, Atomos, get a piece of the action?


I’m Josh Muccio and from Gimlet Media, this is The Pitch


Our investors today: 


Jillian: Jillian Manus


Jillian is a partner at Structure Capital, where they’ve invested $98 million so far in high-profile startups like Uber.


Phil: Phil Nadel


As a serial entrepreneur Phil built companies that sold for hundreds of millions of dollars. Now he manages one of the largest syndicates on AngelList.


Michael: Michael Hyatt


Michael built and sold two software companies for over $500 million dollars and now he invests for himself.


Howie; Howie Diamond


Howie is our rockstar investor. No really, he was in a band. And since changing gigs, Howie’s invested in over 50 startups.


Ready? [Apollo 11 Clip : 3, 2, 1.] Here’s William and Vanessa. 


Vanessa: Okay. Hello. Good morning. So we're Atomos. So we're a space company.


Phil: What's it called?


Vanessa: Atomos. So I guess to set the stage a little bit, so I'm Australian living in Denver. And when I want to go visit my family, drive to the airport, I take a tram to the correct terminal, I take a 747 across the ocean, I then take a smaller aircraft to my parents' hometown and then I drive to my parents' house. So imagine if the only transportation infrastructure we had was the Boeing 747. I would have to take a Boeing 747 to Denver and land in my parents' driveway. Then imagine if I deplaned, being the only passenger, and then the plane self-destructed and I couldn't travel any further. So this constrained transportation infrastructure actually exists in one industry today. And that's the space industry. 


Yeah, I guess when you put it that way it *is* pretty crazy that rockets can only be used once. But a company called SpaceX - maybe you’ve heard of them - thinks they can solve that problem with their reusable rockets...so what is Atomos trying to do? 


Vanessa: But launch vehicles or rockets, are only really good for getting into space. They're not good for doing the last mile - or in space really the last 20,000 miles. They're not very good at precision placement of assets. So at Atomos we're helping to solve this problem. So we are developing a spacecraft that is optimized to move other spacecraft in space. 


Michael: So where are you in this business? I mean, are you doing this? Are you raising money? Is this a PowerPoint? Where are you at?


Vanessa: So the technical work on this company has been ongoing since 2013. So my background's in aerospace. So I've worked for two large aerospace companies and the German space agency DLR. 


Jillian: In what capacity? Can you give a little depth?


Vanessa: So to begin with I started in launch vehicle design. I was in the Future Launch Vehicle division at Airbus Defense and Space for a few years.


Jillian: That's so cool.


Vanessa: It was a dream job on paper. But in reality, there isn't that much innovation because everyone is so risk averse.


Jillian: Aha


Vanessa: So from that role I moved to the German space agency, and I worked in interplanetary mission design. So focused on very high capacity in-space transportation systems. So to move about in space, you should be using different types of rocket engines and propulsion than to get to space. Which is something that we haven't quite got into yet.


Michael: Have you launched anything yet?


Vanessa: So our company has not. But in my career, I have worked on about nine spacecraft. Three of these have launched, and one is actually a flagship NASA mission which is launching next year. 


Phil: I want to make sure I understand the vision here. You described it briefly, but I’m not so quick on these things.


Vanessa: Sure.


Phil: So...


Jillian: You’re not a rocket scientist?


Phil: Exactly. So you’re creating a vehicle that will take satellites from a certain point after the launch, a certain point in space, into their desired location?


Vanessa: Yes.


Phil: That’s the key? So that, the benefit of that is that the launch vehicle can be redeployed more quickly, more efficiently?


Vanessa: So the key driving factor is that our engines and spacecraft are optimized only for in-space transportation. If we break up delivering a satellite into two segments, getting to space, moving about in space, we can optimize it. The average cost to access low orbit is only $35 million. If that satellite wanted to go directly to its target orbit, which is typically an altitude of 20,000 miles, it would cost more than 100 million.


Phil: That’s currently what they pay? To launch a satellite?


Vanessa: On average, yes.


Jillian: All right. So keep going. We’ve got to 35... Okay, keep going.


Vanessa: So the satellite is launched to this low orbit. Our spacecraft, which is essentially a space tug, it rendezvouses with the rocket upper stage, retrieves the satellite and transfers it to its final destination. And we can reuse our space tug. So we then cycle back down to the low orbit, pick up another satellite, and it can perform this several times before we need to refuel it. 


Picture a spacecraft, hanging out in low-Earth orbit, just waiting for a satellite to meet up with. 


When it does arrive, it’ll ferry that satellite to its final destination. 


Which seems like a clear solution, to what Vanessa’s describing as a big problem...


Jillian: So why isn’t NASA doing this?


Vanessa: So NASA, um... NASA had planned to have this infrastructure when they created the space shuttle. So the space shuttle, as you know, could only take astronauts to a low orbit, so maximum 800 kilometers altitude which is where the Hubble space telescope was. Why would NASA, after going to the moon, decide that they only needed to reach 800 kilometers? They actually also designed a vehicle like this, a space tug, to take astronauts to the moon, to Mars and beyond, but it got de-budgeted. It got defunded.


Jillian: Why? Why did that get de-budgeted?


Vanessa: The space shuttle budget and operating cost was 10x above expectations. It’s also because NASA’s budget gets set at a yearly cadence, and the missions get rewritten with every administration. So it’s one of the things that’s really frustrating. I mean, what progress have we seen NASA do really since the Apollo mission? You know, for Apollo they had a set goal, they went and executed. Now, they’re sort of, let’s just fund technology department.


Michael: Yeah, but private companies are coming in now, though.


Vanessa: Exactly. This is one thing that enables our business model. So this $35 million cost to low orbits is only going to get lower. But the cost to high orbits is going to stay about the same. SpaceX is decreasing it a little bit but not by orders of magnitude, like a lot of the new commercial companies are doing for the low orbit. 


Jillian: Is this on Elon Musk’s radar? Or Branson’s radar? Or...


Vanessa: So first Elon Musk. They don’t need it. They already have a majority of the market capture. Our system enables every other company to compete with SpaceX on a cost point and beat them on… 


Jillian: So does SpaceX have a space tug?


Vanessa: No. They don’t need it right now. They don’t need it.


Phil: Why? wouldn’t other satellite companies just launch their satellites with SpaceX then instead of working with you?


Vanessa: For two reasons. So first... I guess three reasons. So firstly, SpaceX’s reliability isn’t top tier. The US government still wants to launch with the heritage providers.


Phil: Well, they’ve had more successful launches than you have. So, I mean...


Vanessa: But the thing is that a launch vehicle is expendable. It is a one-use system. Would you like to fly in a plane that’s flown once? Or would you like to fly in a space tug that has flown hundreds of times and been demonstrated to be reliable.


Phil: I don’t know a lot about it, but I thought SpaceX is making reusable rockets.


Vanessa: Now, okay, so the difference between a space tug and a space rocket is that 90% of a rocket is propellant. You have something that is thinner than an aluminum can with a computer on top. That’s a rocket with a rocket engine. Our system is more of an aircraft. It has more safety systems, more redundancy, more reliability. 


What you just heard there was a rocket scientist trying to translate rocket speak to investor speak. The bottom line? The Atomos spacecraft isn’t a rocket. It’s a remotely piloted spaceship, designed to live in space. In fact, it needs a rocket to launch it into space in the first place. But once it’s up there, it can do its job of moving stuff around. Well that’s the idea, anyway. 


Jillian: But you don’t have, really, a viable product yet? You don’t have something that is reliable yet. Correct?


Vanessa: No.


Jillian: Okay. So it’s basically you’re saying it will have the reliability. It will have.


Vanessa: Yes.


Jillian: Okay. Because it’s not a proven 


Michael: Between now and 2022, you need $35 million dollars?


Vanessa: So that's... Okay, that's to launch the spacecraft. To develop and build the spacecraft, our total capitalization needs are going to be... You're going to widen your eyes at this. It's going to be around $160 million. Now, more than 50% of that can come from non-dilutive funding and government sources. We are also partnering with companies who have developed this technology before and looking at joint commercialization agreements such as profit sharing. So our raise strategy, worst case scenario we're looking at raising over the next four years a total of 80 million over four raises. 


William: About 70


Vanessa: Seventy. Over four raises.


Jillian: And how will that be used?


Vanessa: Okay. So we are currently in pre-seed round. We’re about 50% of the way through our raise. It’s just a one million pre-seed for some of our key business and technical risks. So there is a lot of technical work to do. But we’re looking to launch a demonstration mission in end of 2020 or early 2021. 


William: So the million dollars now as Vanessa was mentioning is really to get us to a preliminary design review.


Oh hey, this is William, Vanessa’s co-founder. Vanessa’s been running the show up until now, but he’s jumping in here to explain some nuts and bolts. 


William: So it's to be able to hire on full time some of the technical contractors that we have and build out the technical team to get to that milestone. 


Vanessa: So I think one thing I want to add, so with this one million, in addition to burning down business risk and securing these partnerships, we are building value. So all of the IP that we're developing, all of the license agreements we're securing, is technology that DARPA, the DOD and NASA will want in the next five to ten years. So we make ourselves very valuable for acquisition or future investment. So- 


Michael: So is your idea to get acquired before you launch?


Vanessa: So that is the most likely exit strategy in aerospace, is acquisition by a large aerospace company.


Howie: But pre-launch? Before you launch anything?


Vanessa: Yes. Actually. 


Vanessa: I mean, the true motivation was when I was an advanced concepts engineer and realized that the tech for this business could also get humans to Mars in 30 days. We want to push the envelope in terms of knowledge. But I mean, it’s also a fantastic opportunity. We’ve highlighted technologies that the large aerospace companies and NASA will want within the next decade. And we’re securing all of that IP. 


Wait, hold up. Did she just say... “our technology could get humans to Mars in 30-days”?? Oh yeah, yeah that’s what she said. But to my surprise, the investors didn’t stop her on that. They’re more worried about things back on Earth. 


Howie: Who would be your customer in five or ten years?


Vanessa: Yeah. So there are I guess three groups of satellite operators who we're in discussions with right now. So there's government customers. There are the large telecommunications companies such as Comcast, and they are the most lucrative providers. They are also looking to replenish the satellites that they have in deep orbits at a more a rapid rate to keep up with technology advancements and bandwidth.


Howie: So that’s all in lower Earth orbit? Or that’s in geostationary? Like the broadband market satellites, those are all in lower Earth, right? Or are there broadband geostationary satellites?


Vanessa: No, so currently geostationary Earth orbit is still the most lucrative orbit. 


Right about now we’re all starting to wonder when Howie became a rocket scientist…


Jillian: I am so impressed by your knowledge on this.


Howie: I invested in a space company.


Jillian: Oh, that’s why.


Howie: Space Tango.


Jillian: I'm thinking to myself, how the heck would he know this?


Howie: I am a new space enthusiast. 


Jillian: the new frontier...


Howie: The final frontier.


Jillian: The final frontier is such an area of huge intrigue.


Phil: I just want to say, this is fascinating. It’s very intriguing what you’re doing, but not at all up my alley. I mean this is just way, way too early for me and too capital intensive and not a good fit for me. So I wish you all the best but I’m going to pass on it. 


Completely out of the blue, Phil goes out.


But there are 3 investors still interested in exploring the final frontier. The Pitch continues when we come back.




Welcome back. Phil went out right before the break, but Vanessa and William still have a chance at investment. And the investors want to know where Atomos goes from here. (Besides space, of course.)


Michael: Pretend you don’t get acquired. Because maybe that’s probably the way to do it. Right? William? That’s the prudent thing to do. That it doesn’t always work out that way, right?


William: I mean, there’s a few different areas for us to get acquired.


Michael: But let’s say you don’t. Let’s say you have to run a company.


Vanessa: I think we should talk about our revenue.


Michael: Well, but let’s pretend. Because a lot of people, you know, I was always get worried when people’s strategy is to get bought. And you know, maybe that works sometimes. But most of the times it actually doesn’t. So walk us through what happens to an investor today.


William: Yeah, I mean, so...


Michael: Assuming you need 80 more million dollars.


William: As a finance guy...


Michael: Or 160.


William: ... if we were never acquired, I would love for us to IPO in the same vein as SpaceX. And as space becomes more of a standard commercial industry, I think that’s going to become more common in the future So based on what we project with a couple of contracts a year, we would exit about $1.3 billion in 2025.


Howie: How much is a contract?


William: $54 million.


Jillian: Talk about the revenue model please 


Vanessa: so our full commercial vehicle will be operational in the early to mid-2020s with 500 million annual revenue.


Jillian: If in fact you're able to build it.


Vanessa: Yes.


Jillian: Are there any concerns about that? I mean, be really honest here. You have not...


Michael: What could go wrong!


Phil: Not much.


Jillian: I don’t think you would have given up your position to launch - haha - to launch into the totally unknown. So take me through a bit of what is the risk in terms of this not working at all 


Vanessa: A lot of the risk we won’t be carrying, because we are relying on existing technology.


Jillian: That’s good. 


Vanessa: So The biggest risk is going to be the power source. So to put it in perspective, one third of all on-orbit failures of satellites are because of power failure. So power electronics in space to get hit by a particle from deep space, you lose a system Another aspect to this that I have not really discussed is that we really want to use a nuclear power source in space So NASA has flown a nuclear powered spacecraft before that has a fission reactor, and the Russians have flown 30. It’s not new technology. We’re actually taking a terrestrial reactor and terrestrial technologies, so these small, very very safe reactors that are being deployed in northern Canada, we want to utilize this in the space environment 


So this may just be the sci-fi nerd in me… I think this is so cool. What’s fundamentally different about Atomos, they’re using a mini-nuclear reactor to power their spacecraft. Yeah, I know! But that’s assuming everything goes according to plan.


Vanessa: And another critical part of this that I have to say is if that technical risk is realized and we can’t use this system in space, then we use solar panels 


Jillian: Why wouldn’t you just go to solar panels in the first place? Because they’re not as efficient and they won’t provide as much power? Is that...?


Vanessa: So essentially, with our nuclear vehicle, we can do seven transfers before refueling. With a solar vehicle, we can only two or three. So our operating costs to refuel that vehicle are much, much higher, reducing our profit margin. 


Michael: Okay. Wow. This is interesting. I think, as I step back and take a look at this, I think the issue for me is really simple. I have no way to calculate the risk of this deal. It is very exciting. You two are very smart and you are very passionate. I have no understanding of really what this is. I don’t like to invest in companies that kind of have to sell within the next four years, as a bit of a strategy. I like to invest in businesses that have a scalable defensible business that I can buy into. And for that reason, I just don’t think I can invest in this. 


Michael is out. But what about Jillian? 


Jillian: Oh my gosh. I am absolutely torn here. Because I am a big believer in investing in people. That's my first and foremost. The two areas that I invest, and the two points that, character traits that I look for is persistence and curiosity. I know zero about this area. And so I add zero value. Okay. I could only come in and give you money, which I don't know if that makes sense to you. All right? And by the way, you're a badass. But as far as my gut is on this, and assessing the both of you, I think you guys are going to hang the moon. I do need to learn more about this and maybe this is my onramp into space.


Only one investor remains: Howie. 


Howie: How do you alleviate technological risk with a million dollars for a company like this in 12 months?


Vanessa: So focus on the power electronics. So the substrate and wafer materials exist. We just have to build and test the components.


Howie: You can build it for a million? I'm assuming you're using a million for other... You said it wasn't just for alleviating technological risk, it was for a couple of strategic hires? Or what was the other use of proceeds?


Vanessa: So it's for strategic hires for the design and development of the vehicle. It's for a lot of the licensing agreements and patent prosecution. In terms of the technical risk mitigation, we're doing a lot of that in partnership with the universities. So the capital cost for that is actually very low. That is less than 50% of our costs. 


Howie: I have, luckily for both of you, the right risk profile for this kind of deal. I have invested in a space company before. I am excited about new space and the commercialization of space industry in general. I do see the economic barriers of entry being significantly exponentially lowered for access into space. You know if you can get over that initial hurdle, the technological risk, the market risk, the environmental risk, which are not easy to get over, there's a ton of funding that can come your way from the VC world. I also know that there's some grant money and there are funding channels for this.


Vanessa: Let's say government contract rather than grant.


Howie: Okay, government contract. Sure.


Jillian: Love this girl


Howie: I do too. I really... And I like thinking about the possibilities here. I want to get on this rocket ship. Figuratively and literally. 


Jillian: How much?


Howie: 25k. And we also, and I have experience working with space companies. Would that be something you two would be open to?


Vanessa: Absolutely.


William: Definitely.


Howie: Great. I'd love to partner with you guys. This sounds incredible and I get giddy when I think about the possibilities.


Michael: Fist bump. Fist bump occurred. 


Jillian: Thank you so, so much. [laughs] 


With a deal from Howie in hand, Vanessa and William start making their way out of the room and the investors...give us a peek behind the curtain. 


Michael: This is the voyage of the Starship Atomos.


Jillian: Starship Pitch. 


Howie: I'll see you in low Earth orbit.


Michael: Did you hear the record scratch? I heard the record scratch. We just need 160 million. Now don't... [screech]. Only 160 million! Why not...


Jillian: No, but you know what, there's so many people, what Howie said is true. They just have to hit this once their path, right?


Howie: Yeah, they’ve just got to prove the concept.


Jillian: That’s it. And I’m telling you, everybody, you look at Bezos.


Michael: Okay, look, you call Richard and you doing space. I don’t know.


Howie: It's one of those risk rewards.


Phil: I'm giving myself such a pat on the back for waiting 20 minutes to go out on this.


Michael: Yeah, I had to...


Phil: Because in the first minute I was like, I was like biting my tongue. I could get out...


Michael: I assessed the risk at about a million to one. It was really hard to...


Phil: She said space, I was like, I'm out.


Jillian: Yeah, but you want to know something? That was my initial, my initial reaction was like, I know nothing about this. This is not going to happen. I'm out. But I waited. And I waited because I needed to unpeel this. 


Howie: This is a company that will go to zero or it will be a $20 billion company. And they’re understating the market. I don’t think it’s a $350 million market. I think it’s a half a trillion dollar market.


Jillian: I agree with you. Okay. That’s a wrap. That’s a launch.


Phil: Fantastic.


Jillian: Okay. 


A few months later I caught up with Vanessa and William. And the first thing I wanted to talk about was the fact that in her pitch, Vanessa said the earliest a real life space tug would get sent into space is 2021!


Josh: So Atomos is pretty different because the revenue ... I mean, the product is years off, let alone the revenue. What's ... what's different about that, about pitching a business like this to investors?


Vanessa: It's very, very difficult. A lot of investors are used to having traction and early revenue and just used to pumping in money to fuel growth, but with us it's so different. We've only really had success with investors who've invested in other hardware companies, like automation, robotics and so on.


Josh: Oh! Got it. 


William: Yeah, and I'll say, you know, some of the ... not even just investors. So, we were talking with one of our contractors -- an engineering contractor, yesterday, who we were offsetting some of her regular compensation with stock options, and she told us, "You know, the reason I'm willing to take that kind of risk with you guys and take less cash payment is I know when this happens this is gonna be big. It's gonna be game-changing for the space age ... industry." 


Josh: Hmm. I love all this stuff, just 'cause I like space. I'm a huge sci-fi fan, and so I think I told you guys this before you came on the show. So I was really ... I was nerding out during your pitch. And speaking of nerding out, there was this particular moment when you mentioned offhandedly that your tech could get humans to Mars in 30 days. And the investors, they didn’t pick up on it, but it caught my attention. Now NASA predicts we can get humans to Mars in about 8 months - how are you gonna get them there in 30 days? 


Vanessa: So without going into the detailed physics of it -- the reason is, we have two things that are married together in this type of spacecraft. First, we have highly-efficient engines, so we have 10 percent the propellant consumption that you would get with a chemical rocket engine. We're using electric thrusters. And secondly, we have a good thrust-to-mass ratio. We have a relatively lightweight spacecraft that's able to produce high thrust because we have such high electrical power levels. And those two things are really what we need combined to get to Mars in less than two months. So it's the best technology, besides fusion, besides a warp drive and all of those futuristic concepts to get around. Which is really why we're focusing on it. 


Josh: ok, so it’s because of the nuclear reactor. So if your tech could get us to to Mars faster, why isn't that your business, instead of building space tugs, which sound relatively unsexy compared to getting us to Mars?


Vanessa: So, I ... I mean we could potentially get capital by selling that story, but we want to create a sustainable business. We don't want a science project. We ... are first focusing something that provides us with strong revenue, and maybe, like, SpaceX or these other space companies, we would in the future support that type of service, but we're aware ... not scientists, we're building a business. 


Josh: So you're ... you're practical rocket scientists.


William: We are practical rocket scientists except I'm not a rocket scientist, Vanessa is. 


Josh: okay, so thinking back to the pitch room, you got investment. From one investor. From Howie for $25,000. What happened after the pitch? Did that come through?


Vanessa: Yeah, so we're ... so the pitch was a couple of months ago for us now, and we're still closing our raise. We've ... there's been a ... a big roller-coaster. I mean, it's a very, very different value proposition and deal to what a lot of VCs are used to. But Howie and AlphaBridge have stuck with us 


William: Yeah, and I would say I mean, they've been just fantastic. We had -- a month-and-a-half ago now -- an issue where we had to actually let go of our lead investor over disagreements on various things,


Josh: Gasps! What?


William: and Howie was one of the first people ... we reached out to all our current investors, and Howie asked for me to call him on his cellphone. I was driving to meet my friends. I talked to him, told him what was happening. We said, "We want to be upfront. We lost our ... we let go of our lead." And he's like, "Oh, we're still in. We're still committed. In fact, Jake and I are gonna rally the troops and we're gonna see what we can do to connect you with more people and close this raise for you." I mean, they've been huge supporters of us and we couldn't be happier that we met them.


Josh: Whoa! Okay, so you're saying your main investor, who all the other investors were kind of counting on to lead the round, set the terms, make sure the round got raised, you guys had ... you guys had a falling out?


William: Yeah. 


Josh: Can you say anything about what happened with that investor? 


William: No. So the one thing I'll say was very much at the end, and it had to with kind of corporate structure. And we did not see eye to eye how things were set up internally. And there wasn't ... we tried to meet halfway and it just didn't happen. So We stuck to our guns. We spoke to a lot of our other investors and advisors for their input, and we all made the decision that we had to walk away. 


Josh: Well that's a bummer. 


Vanessa: you know, even if we could compromise with them in the end, they had demonstrated that they didn't have the ability to compromise, and that they didn't respect the decisions that we made early on in the formation of the company, which would have made them in the long term, not the best partner for us anyway. So if I had to give advice to ... to anyone regarding this, it's know what your limits are and don't compromise your values. 


Josh: So then Jillian, she said, you know, she wanted to stay in touch after the fact. There was some interest there. Has that turned into anything? 


Vanessa: Yeah, so unfortunately I think Jillian got cold feet even before we had a follow-up call, and so really a week later she sent a very lovely email saying that she just couldn't wrap her head around the industry we're in and that she didn't think that she would be value-added. I mean, that was something that she alluded to during the pitch. 


Vanessa: We're a little bit sad, but we ... we understand her perspective. 


Josh: Yeah, alright So let's say you fill out the round. What happens next?


Vanessa: We're all going to take a week vacation. We have a lot of things that are ready to pull the ... we're ready to pull the trigger on as soon as we ... we have the cash. So hiring some very accomplished people. Things such as license deals, patent filing After that, we're diving deeper into engineering and we're starting prototype build right away.


Josh: The fun stuff. 


Vanessa: Hopefully sooner rather than later.


Josh: Yeah, for sure 


More space startups! More space startups!! [laughs] Seriously though, if you have any good space companies, Send em my way.


I mean come on! It’s space… The possibilities are lim-it-less!


Let us know what you think on Twitter or Facebook @thepitchshow OR if you really love us, I mean REALLY love us. You’ll go to Apple Podcasts and leave us a review. Because it helps new people find the show, the only thing better for helping new people find the show, is if you tell them about it. So do that too:


And if you know of another space startup we should bring on the show… send an email with your hot tip to [email protected]


Thanks for listening, see you next week.


Our show is produced by me, Josh Muccio, Molly Donahue and Kareem Maddox,. We are edited by Blythe Terrell.

We are mixed by Enoch Kim. Original music composed by The Muse Maker. Our Theme Music is by Breakmaster Cylinder.

Lisa Muccio planned the recording of this pitch.

Here’s our disclaimer, no offer to invest is being made to or solicited from the listening audience on today’s show.

All right -- you’ve been listening to The Pitch from Gimlet Media. We’ll be back with a brand new episode, next Wednesday.

Phil NadelProfile Photo

Phil Nadel

Investor on The Pitch

Phil Nadel is the Founder and Managing Director of Forefront Venture Fund and of Forefront Venture Partners, one of the largest syndicates on AngelList. He has started and sold several companies and has invested in more than 200 startups with several exits.

Jillian Manus // Structure CapitalProfile Photo

Jillian Manus // Structure Capital

Investor on The Pitch Seasons 1–10

Jillian Manus is Managing Partner of an early-stage Silicon Valley venture fund, Structure Capital. Branded “Architects of the Zero Waste Economy," they invest in underutilized assets and excess capacity. She was named one of the top 25 early-stage Female Investors by Business Insider in 2021. Jillian serves on numerous corporate and non-profit boards, these include: Stanford University School of Medicine Board of Fellows, NASDAQ Entrepreneurial Center Board of Directors, Fuqua School of Business at Duke University.

Howie Diamond // Pure VenturesProfile Photo

Howie Diamond // Pure Ventures

Investor on The Pitch Seasons 1, 4 & 10

Howie Diamond is the Co-Founder and Managing Partner at Pure Ventures, and early stage investment firm that also invests in the development of its founders. Also a musician, Howie founded and sold a music management/licensing company in Los Angeles called Lo-Fi Music. After that, he moved to San Francisco and began working closely with dozens of start-ups running business development for a Bay-Area tech agency called Sparkart.

Michael HyattProfile Photo

Michael Hyatt

Investor on The Pitch

Michael Hyatt is a serial entrepreneur and active investor. He is the co-founder of BlueCat, (acquired by Madison Dearborn Partners), and previously co-founded Dyadem (acquired by IHS). He currently serves as a Director of BlueCat and is also a weekly business commentator on CBC, is the Host of “Business Unplanned”, a podcast to help small businesses.