By David Bullock
While other asteroid mining companies such as Planetary Resources and Deep Space Industries have gone bust,, AstroForge CEO Matt Gialich thinks his company is ready to succeed where they failed because of his management style and changes in technology.
“We are a company that, at this stage, is focused on ownership,” Gialich said. “What I mean by that is each individual contributor that we bring in is responsible for some component that they work on, be it refinery-tech or a space vehicle, and they own that from start to finish. Our management style is very much that you’re brought in for your aptitude and your skill set, and you know what to do. We are all engineers here. We allow people to perform with the best of their needs and that they know what they’re doing.”
“We are 100% focused on mining asteroids and that’s it,” he added.
This focus trickles down to how the company is looking to raise capital. Gialich explained. In the seed stage, “efficiency is not what we are going after. Speed is.” In other words, they are not looking to expand the C-suite at this time, and plan on being lean.
On May 26, AstroForge announced the closing of a $13 million seed plus round. While that is a considerable amount of capital, it is no where near the $50 million that Planetary Resource raised from its inception in 2012 to 2016, the last year it raised capital.
Initialized Capital led AstroForge’s seed round in May. Seven Seven Six, Earthrise, Aera VC, Liquid 2 and Soma also made investments in the company.
Another reason why Astro-Forge thinks it is superior to other companies that pursued asteroid mining is its undisclosed proprietary technology. Both Gialich and his co-founder/CTO, Jose Acain, were in the Y Combinator program and developed technology that “enables in-space material refinement,” which means that each asteroid mining mission “returns loaded with the highest value resources immediately ready for sale.”
The company has also partnered with OrbAstro to manufacture their satellite and has been able to procure a rideshare launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicle. The scientific community has also identified asteroids that may be more profitable to mine during the past several years.
The mission of AstroForge is also green.
“Aside from the incredible value of minerals on known asteroids within our reach, AstroForge simultaneously offers a climate solution for Earth and expands our abilities for further deep space exploration,” says Brett Gibson, General Partner at Initialized. “If we can access the unlimited resources from space, we can move away from harmful mining practices on Earth and get the materials we need to expand our scientific abilities. To say this is a game-changer is an understatement.”
AstroForge was founded in January of this year by Acain, who is alumni of SpaceX and NASA, and Gialich, who worked at Virgin Orbit. The two met the Y-Combinator and are looking to continue to expand their team.
“We’ve brought in some great engineers and physicists to work on our ideas to do this,” said Gialich, “And we’ve at this point, been able to demonstrate that we can make this work. We have our mission coming up in January, which is going to demonstrate that in-space. That’s one of our first major milestones of the company. Nobody has ever been able to refine a material in space and we want to be the first people to do that…. That’s what really makes us different.”