YC's 18 space industry investments

Y Combinator (YC) is a startup accelerator and venture capital firm that's invested in more than 3,500 companies. Of that 3,500 company portfolio the majority has always been software (with b2b SASS making up ~70%). But there's a tiny sliver of that pie pointed towards space. And that's what I'm most interested in tracking.

I've compiled a list of companies working on developing technology and infrastructure for space exploration, satellite deployment, and space-based services such as communication and data collection. YC's investment in these companies reflects the growing interest in the commercial space industry and the potential for innovation and growth in this field.

All the data here is pulled from the YC company directory, searching by space, satellite, rocket, etc. and thrown into a spreadsheet). If you think there's some missing companies shoot me an email and I'll update the list.

Summary financials

fundraising waterfall

Since 2016, Y Combinator has invested in 18 companies in the space sector, with 11 of them receiving additional investment from other venture capital firms. To date, only 2 of these companies have made it beyond Series B funding rounds. This suggests that while Y Combinator has been actively investing in space companies, the majority of these companies are still in the early stages of development and have not yet reached the level of maturity and success that would warrant later-stage funding.

all investments

This is not uncommon for startups, especially in high-risk, high-tech industries like space. The fact that 12 of the companies received additional investment from other venture capital firms, despite the small number of companies that have reached later stages, may reflect the growing interest in the space industry and the potential for innovation and growth in this field.

Investments per year

total investments since 2016

Grouped by YC investment year (i.e. W19, S19)

While the number of investments in space companies by Y Combinator and other venture capital firms is increasing, it is still relatively small compared to overall investment activity. Space companies made up 1% of YC's total cohort. Practically a rounding error.

This can be seen as an indication that the space industry is still in its early stages of development, and that the potential for growth and innovation is significant. Additionally, it can also indicate that the venture capital community is still cautious about investing in space companies, as the industry has high technical and regulatory barriers, and a high level of risk. Despite this, the increasing investments in space companies demonstrates the growing interest and confidence in the potential of the space industry as a viable commercial sector.

Who are the founders

I was honestly quite surprised by the diversity here. I had expeced to see 38 ex-SpaceX / ex-Blue Origin founders here. But that only accounts for 7 of the 18 companies. All invetments had at least one cofounder with prior aerospace experience.

FounderCompanyNotable Experience
Tim EllisRelativity SpaceBlue Origin, Masten Space Systems
Erik FranksTesseractBenchmark Space Systems, Masten Space Systems
Jeff Gibson TesseractMasten Space Systems, UTC Aerospace Systems
Mikhail Kokorich MomentusAstro Digital, Helios Wire IoT
Sohrab HaghighatSpaceRydeCruise
Saharnaz SafariSpaceRydeSeveral small startups
Siamak EbadiUTVATESpaceX, Ossia Inc.
William CroweHEO RoboticsUNSW Sydney PHD
Hiranya "HJ" JayakodyHEO RoboticsUNSW Sydney PHD
Joel SercelTransAstra CorporationCalTech
Tyler James Pierce Turion SpaceATA Engineering, Lockheed Martin
Ryan W.Turion SpaceSpaceX
Patryk WiatrTurion SpaceMarshall Reddick Real Estate
Laura CrabtreeEpsilon3SpaceX, Northrop Grumman
Max MednikEpsilon3Google
Aaron Sullivan Epsilon3Google
Justin FiaschettiInversion SpaceRelativity Space, SpaceX
Austin BriggsInversion SpaceABL Space Systems, Boston University Rocket Propulsion Group
Tom WalkinshawAlba OrbitalGlasgow University
Tom FeldmanStoke SpaceBlue Origin, SpaceX
Andy LapsaStoke SpaceBlue Origin
Topher HaddadAlbedoLockheed Martin
Winston TriAlbedoFacebook
AyJay LasaterAlbedoLockheed Martin
Joel DarinVelontraHermeus
Robert Keane IIIVelontraBAE System, GE Aviation
Sandilya BhagavathulaQuindarR2 Space, One Web
Nate HametQuindarOrbital Effects, One Web, Lockheed Martin
David LawrenceQuindarOrbital Effects, One Web
Zach MezaQuindarOrbital Effects, One Web
Shaishav Parekh QuindarOrbital Effects, One Web
Matthew ReganQuindarOrbital Effects, One Web
Kurtis BrodaWyvernGeneral Dynamics
Kristen CoteWyvernSEDS Canada, AlbertaSat
Callie LissinnaWyvernAlbertaSat
Christopher RobsonWyvernAlbertaSat
Jose AcainAstroForgeBird, SpaceX
Matthew GialichAstroForgeBird, Virgin Galactic

The Details

The 18 companies (ordered by the YC investment date): Spreadsheet

Relativity Space (W16) <Active>

Relativity is building humanity’s multiplanetary future. We invented a new approach to design, build, and fly our own rockets, starting with Terran 1 – the world’s first entirely 3D printed rocket, and Terran R, our next generation medium-heavy lift fully reusable launch vehicle.

Tesseract (S17) <Dead>

Tesseract is a provider of cost effective propulsion components and systems for in-space applications spanning commercial Earth-orbiting satellites, robotic exploration missions, and human spaceflight.

Momentus (S18) <Active>

Momentus makes and operates cost-effective and energy-efficient in-space transport and service vehicles that utilize water plasma propulsion technology. Momentus has service agreements in place with numerous private satellite companies, government agencies, and research organizations.

Epic Aerospace (S19) <Active>

With a network of space-tugs, we will enable satellites to freely move around in space. We are building a line of chemical space-tugs to cover all space-transport needs. Powered by non-toxic hypergolic propellants, our tugs are simple, reliable, and inexpensive.

SpaceRyde (W19) <Active>

SpaceRyde is building the future of space cargo transportation to facilitate and encourage necessary in-space developments, innovations and economy. Its innovative system utilizes a stratospheric balloon to bypass the atmosphere without emissions nor depositing black particles into the ozone layer and is the world’s first and only multi-functional rocket.

UTVATE (W20) <Active>

UTVATE is here to build the next generation of user terminals that can unlock the true capacity of satellite internet.

HEO Robotics (S21) <Active>

HEO Robotics visually monitors satellites for governments and defence. We do this by transforming existing Earth observation satellites with software to image other satellites as they fly close by.

TransAstra Corporation (S21) <Active>

Today: TransAstra is moving satellites between orbits with space tugs powered by the Sun and propelled with water. Tomorrow: We'll sustainably harvest resources from the Moon and asteroids and change the course of history.

Turion Space (S21) <Active>

Turion Space is building spacecraft to move things around in space and image space objects when they’re not. They aim to build a strong foundation selling space domain awareness imagery data while advancing their technology towards an affordable solution for orbital debris removal and eventually asteroid mining.

Epsilon3 (S21) <Active>

Epsilon3 is the OS for spacecraft and complex operations. We are a growing team of engineers formerly from SpaceX, Google, and Stanford. Our team worked firsthand on over 100 launches, including training and coordinating operations for multiple astronauts who successfully traveled to space and back.

Inversion Space (S21) <Active>

Inversion was founded in 2021 with the mission to build the first affordable return capability for the commercial and defense space industries. With launching to space becoming cheap and frequent, comparable options for return must become available to allow for a robust economy in space.

Alba Orbital (W21) <Active>

Alba Orbital is building the world's largest earth observation constellation, imaging everywhere on earth, every 15 minutes. We can see events within minutes such as wildfires in real time and have signed >$104m of LOIs, with both government and commercial customers paying pre-orders for imagery.

Stoke Space (W21) <Active>

Stoke Space is revolutionizing access to space with 100% reusable rockets designed to fly daily. The company is developing a novel rocket with a fully reusable 1st and 2nd stage body.

Albedo (W21) <Active>

Albedo is building a constellation of satellites that will capture both visible and thermal imagery simultaneously, at a resolution 9x higher than the best available today. This novel dataset will enable commercial applications that, until now, have been limited due to the lack of affordability, timeliness, and spatial resolution required for the majority of imagery applications.

Velontra (S22) <Active>

Velontra is building a hypersonic space plane that can takeoff from anywhere in any weather. This horizontal takeoff increases launch reliability and enables customers to directly access any orbit. Our air-breathing propulsion system is up to 6 times more fuel efficient than any rocket, and uses oxygen from the air which creates thousands of pounds of additional payload capacity.

Quindar (S22) <Active>

Quindar is a web app used by satellite owners to analyze, test and operate their constellation. The space industry is shifting from companies launching a handful of satellites over a decade, to launching hundreds of satellites EACH in just a few years. Our SaaS platform automates mission management and for a single engineer to operate hundreds of satellites.

Wyvern (W22) <Active>

Wyvern is a space data company that will capture the highest resolution hyperspectral images from satellites that cost 100X less than satellites using traditional telescopes.

AstroForge (W22) <Active>

AstroForge is an asteroid mining company. Instead of bringing back the entire asteroid, we break it up, refine, and return only what’s valuable.

Tyler Maran - @TylerMaran - tylermaran.com