How to Start an Aerospace Company
Like countless entrepreneurial couples, Jane Poynter and Taber MacCallum started their business from home. It was 1993, and home was Biosphere 2, the 3.14-acre terrarium in which researchers spent two years testing self-sustaining ecosystems.
Six months before leaving the dome, Poynter and MacCallum started worrying about their second act. “Astronauts and others who have had seminal experiences tend to implode afterward if they don’t have a plan,” says Poynter. “There has been alcoholism. Suicide. We started a business so we would have something to throw ourselves into after this extraordinary, life-changing experience.”
As to what the business would do, they weren’t exactly sure. But their singular circumstances and events in the outside world provided an indication. Having shared close quarters with Biosphere’s engineers, biologists, and ecologists, the pair was intimately familiar with the conflicts that prevented collaboration among those professionals. Meanwhile, plans for an international space station had just been announced. Poynter and MacCallum pondered creating a company that would bring together engineers and biologists, for whom they would act as cultural translators.
Sealed off from the world, Poynter and MacCallum had their attorney incorporate the business, which they named Paragon Space Development. They also acquired a business partner, an aerospace engineer named Grant Anderson, whom they encountered in a space-related group on Usenet, an early online forum. “We became partners with someone we’d never met in real life,” says Poynter. They even attended their first trade show — the Small Satellite Conference — via videophone while still inside the dome.
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