Space could become the next trillion-dollar industry, permeating our lives in ways we can’t imagine. Ambitious startups and venture capital are refreshing the province of big government machines by building rockets and satellites, designing new technologies and expanding our concept of tourism. The ecosystem is alive with investment and growth that could be worth $1 trillion by 2040, according to Morgan Stanley.
“We’re really at the precipice of a monumental shift,” McKinsey’s Ryan Brukardt said of space exploration, where innovation is rising, launch costs are falling and capital is flowing. For business leaders, space venturing can offer some lessons, or helpful reminders, to sustain or create growth. Let’s examine a few.
Failure is vital to growth.
Space is the ultimate domain of failure. And when rocket launches go wrong, the consequences can be catastrophic.
Even success can bring failure. For example, NASA launched Artemis 1 in November 2022 as the first step toward returning to the Moon. Yet the rocket’s launch pad sustained damage at lift-off, which they’ll need to address before sending human crews aboard future Artemis missions. (Disclosure: NASA is a customer of my company.)
Space exploration represents one of humanity’s great risk/reward ventures, requiring determination and resiliency that some businesses don’t possess. Failure doesn’t impede growth. Fear of failure does. Entrepreneurs driven to achieve also fail successfully by owning, learning and growing. Some experts even believe we should create failure résumés.
Astronaut Mike Massimino might agree. NASA rejected Massimino three times, once for medical reasons, before accepting him to its training program. He ultimately became an astronaut by teaching his eyes and brain to “see better.” As Massimino suggests, persistence can help you overcome failure.
Disruptors create opportunity.
U.S. government agencies, notably NASA and the Department of Defense, held dominion over space exploration for decades. In the 1980s, the U.S. embarked on a new national space policy that encouraged private-sector expansion into space exploration.
Since then, investor explorers have built and launched satellites and rockets, disrupting the industry and drawing more venture capital, R&D and business opportunities to space. I’ve noticed their primary disruption tool has been reusable rockets.
According to Morgan Stanley, reusable rockets lowered the cost of launching a satellite by around 70%. Soon, satellite launches could cost $5 million, creating an even more favorable environment for companies to harness the power of data collected in space.
Further, disruptive entities have made rocket launches common. Recently, Indian company Skyroot launched the country’s first private rocket. And my company and several others are building the next space stations.
Disruptive companies have long made history. Apple wanted to put a personal computer in every home, which was inconceivable in the 1970s. Now, the space sector reminds us again how disruptive new ventures can be. For example, SpaceX aims to replace airplanes with rockets for global transportation. (Disclosure: SpaceX is a customer of my company.) And commercial air travel was among the most disruptive forces of the 20th century.
Business leaders should consider asking themselves: What does this industry do well, and what does it not do well? Disruption should address the latter. What are the point points? What are the two to three dominos that, if toppled, would unlock everything else?
“Spinoffs” can yield huge dividends.
Space is an enterprising realm, just as the seas were 500 years ago. Explorers boarded ships to new places and returned home with spices, cocoa and medicines. Their huge initial investments generated ripples that fundamentally changed countries and economies.
NASA today calls this the “spinoff” effect. Space exploration has led to advances in technology, medicine, agriculture and other industries. For example, the Moon landing made food safer, and there are also dozens of inventions that space exploration made possible.
When one great idea or product fails, advances may rise from an unexpected byproduct. Entrepreneurs should embrace the spinoff effect.
Teamwork can lead to much bigger accomplishments.
I think the International Space Station is one of humanity’s great accomplishments. Five space agencies representing 15 countries collaborated on the continuously crewed research base that has orbited Earth for more than two decades. It overcame immense financial and geopolitical challenges to bring us revolutions in quantum mechanics, microbiology, genetics and more.
Today, the ISS works with companies such as Procter & Gamble and Merck to facilitate private-sector research in space. And the post-ISS era will likely bring privately funded space stations with unique geopolitical and commercial challenges. This will require even more attention to collaboration.
Business leaders certainly promote collaboration as an essential success factor. But when their teams stray or become insulated, they can point to the sky and the ISS (for another decade or so) for inspiration on the ultimate teamwork success story.
Which event in space will happen first: Someone will be born, or someone will be killed? Even considering this question should cause us to reflect. Space is transformational. Business is as well. We must consider the profound, and potentially negative, impacts that unrestrained growth, disregard for diverse perspectives and a general lack of empathy can have on society.
I think space provides tangible proof of the importance of ESG (environmental, social, governance) initiatives. As with every corner of humanity, the space industry can do better to meet ESG goals.
If a company is looking to start an ESG program, start with your overall current impact. The best focus area to start with can be to examine how you hire, train and promote your people. Is it thoughtful and diverse?
Entrepreneurs, like astronauts, are explorers. They have vision and determination, looking past obstacles to see a future in the stars-metaphorically and literally. As noted earlier, the space economy sits at an inflection point ready for lift-off. Business leaders would be wise to follow it closely.
Originally published at https://www.forbes.com.
About the Author
Dylan Taylor is a global business leader, commercial astronaut, thought leader and philanthropist. He is an active vanguard in the space exploration industry as a CEO, investor, explorer and futurist. Currently, Dylan serves as Chairman & CEO of Voyager Space, a multi-national space exploration firm that acquires and integrates leading space exploration enterprises globally.
Dylan has been cited by Harvard University, SpaceNews, the BBC, Pitchbook, CNBC, CNN and others as having played a seminal role in the growth of the private space industry. As an early-stage investor in more than 50 emerging space ventures, including Accion, Kepler, York, Astrobotic, LeoLabs, Relativity, and Planet, Dylan is widely considered the most active private space investor in the world.
Dylan is an explorer of note. On December 11th, 2021 Dylan became just the 606th human to go to space as part of the crew of Blue Origin’s NewShepard Mission 19. Accordingly, Dylan earned his commercial astronaut wings with the FAA and his universal astronaut wings from the Association of Space Explorers.
He is also one of only a handful of humans to have descended to the deepest part of the world’s oceans, Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench as part of the Limiting Factor Expedition in July of 2022. In that mission, Dylan descended with pilot Victor Vescovo to a depth in excess of 10,800 meters (35,500 feet) into an area of the Mariana Trench that had never been visited by humans. Dylan is the youngest human to have been to the deepest part of the world’s oceans and crossed the Karman line into Space. In addition, Dylan was a mission specialist on the 2022 mission by OceanGate to the Titanic in the Northern Atlantic, making him just the second human to visit space, the Challenger Deep and the Titanic. Dylan has been a member of the Explorers Club since 2014.
Dylan’s technical background, global business experience and unbridled passion for space make him a unique figure within his industry. He regularly speaks and writes about the future of the space economy and is sought after by the media for his expertise in the financial aspects of space investing as well as industry dynamics.
As a thought leader and futurist, he has written many popular pieces on the future of the space industry for Forbes, FastCompany, Newsweek, SpaceNews, ROOM, The Space Review, Apogeo Spatial and Space.com. As a speaker, Dylan has keynoted many of the major space conferences around the world and has appeared regularly on Bloomberg, Fox Business, and CNBC.
Dylan has extensive global business experience as both a board director and CEO in several industries, including advanced electronics, finance and real estate. He previously served as a Director for UMB Bank, a Fortune 500 company based in Kansas City and as a mutual fund director for the Jackson Funds where he oversaw assets of $8B across 130 distinct funds. He has also served in the roles of CEO, President and Board Director for multinational companies like Prudential PLC, Honeywell, Colliers and Jones Lang LaSalle. Dylan was recognized as a Fortune 1000 CEO with P&L responsibility in excess of $3B and operations encompassing 15,000 employees in over 60 countries. In addition, Dylan has participated in 4 IPOs over the course of his career.
Dylan is a leading advocate of space manufacturing and the utilization of in-space resources to further space exploration and settlement. In 2017, he became the first private citizen to manufacture an item in space when the gravity meter he co-designed and commissioned was 3D printed on the International Space Station. The historic item is now housed in the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago.
Dylan maintains an extensive philanthropic impact on the space industry. In 2017, Dylan founded the nonprofit and social movement, Space for Humanity, which seeks to democratize space exploration and develop solutions to global issues through the scope of human awareness to help solve the world’s most intractable problems. Building upon his passion and support for the space industry, Dylan serves as a strategic advisor for both the Archmission and the Human Spaceflight Program and is a co-founding patron of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, which promotes the growth of commercial space activity. Additionally, he is also a leading benefactor to the Brooke Owens Fellowship, Patti Grace Smith Fellowship and Mission: Astro Access.
Dylan is the founder and Chairman of Multiverse Media, parent company of the popular space philosophy website 2211.world as well as the Ad Astra Dinners, a Jeffersonian-style dinner series featuring some of the world’s leading influencers discussing the future of humanity in space. Another subsidiary of Multiverse Media, Multiverse Publishing, publishes books by leading authors including Frank White, Isaac Asimov and Gerard K. O’Neill. It is also the executive producer of the documentary film, The High Frontier and the forthcoming film, Fortitude.
For his influence as a global leader and his commitment to creating a positive impact on the world, Dylan has been honored with numerous personal and professional accolades in recent years. The World Economic Forum recognized Dylan as a Young Global Leader in 2011 and he was named a Henry Crown Fellow of the Aspen Institute in 2014. In 2020, Dylan was recognized by the Commercial Spaceflight Federation with their top honor for business and finance, following in the footsteps of 2019’s inaugural winner, the late Paul Allen.
Dylan Taylor earned an MBA in Finance and Strategy from the Booth School of Business at University of Chicago and holds a BS in Engineering from the honors college at the University of Arizona, where he graduated Tau Beta Pi and in 2018 was named Alumnus of the year. In 2013, he attended the Global Leadership and Public Policy for the 21st Century program at Harvard University.
Dylan and his family reside in Denver, Colorado where he is active locally with Colorado Concern and the Colorado Spaceport. In his spare time, Dylan enjoys hiking, competing in triathlons and spending time outdoors. He is married to author Gabrielle V. Taylor with whom he has two teenage daughters.