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Saturday, December 04, 2021
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“Israel is known as the startup nation. The logical next step is to become the SpaceTech Nation; we have the technology and the brains for it.” So said Laurent Bensimon, finance adviser at the new Israeli venture capital fund TYPE5. “Twenty years ago, Israel was just getting on the tech map. Now Israel wants to get onto the space tech map.

“Israel has a tremendous expertise, knowledge base, resources and creativity, which we want to leverage. Now is the time to plan long-term for SpaceTech nation.

“We loved our community in the U.S., but decided to come to Israel and make a difference,” Bensimon explained.” I was very active in my community in New Jersey and on the board of our local school, Ben Porat Yosef. Our three kids were born there, and our community was very Zionistic.

Discussing the family’s move, Bensimon said: “Even though we miss our family and friends, we really enjoy our lives in Raanana, and our kids are quite happy here. Our Ohel Ari community is very warm and provides all the services we need. My dream was to bring my skills as a product manager to Israel and help companies here solve business problems. Through projects like TYPE5 I am doing that.”

Bensimon got involved with TYPE5—founded to invest in dual-purpose space-technology startups—through Burt Ross, the investment manager at TYPE5. 

The guiding principle at TYPE5 is to improve life on earth using technology and innovation intended for space. “We are not concerned with funding lunar landings on Mars,” said Bensimon. “We are looking to use space-tech to solve problems down here on earth. The first space race was in the 1950s and 1960s—then there was a lull—and now we are in the second space race. We want Israel to be right there, competing with the likes of India and China.”

Bensimon is convinced that Mars—and possibly sustaining life on the planet—is the next frontier. “Our approach is to look out of the box and use space-tech to help with life down here on earth.” He shared an example of this dual-purpose technology, specifically Utilis, a company founded by Lauren Guy, a scientist and master’s student exploring ways to detect water on Mars. He realized that this technology would be of tremendous value on earth by being used to detect water leaks. Bensimon explained: “In agricultural settings, water is often the most precious resource, so having cutting-edge tech that can detect leaks and notify the water authorities is a real game-changer. Otherwise it could be days or weeks before the leaks would be remediated.”.

TYPE5’s partners include: Lior Herman, with experience in cloud computing, cybersecurity and information technology; Yaron Sagi, a global brands strategist who works for Facebook, Apple, Nike, Mobileye and others; and Udi Danhirsh, with a law background. Burt Ross, an investment manager for various family offices, will be the vice president for investments; and Einat Berkovitch, former CEO of the Morris Kahn Foundation and former board member of SpaceIL, the Israeli moonshot project, is vice president for operations. Another, unnamed Israeli with a background in DoD, security and aviation, will advise TYPE5 on investments.

“Unlike countries like Russia and China, Israel’s private space industry is not well developed,” said Berkovich. “Beraishit and SpaceIL were funded by private money.”

While Israel is making progress with regard to satellites—in fields including intelligence and the military, the country’s private space industry is not well developed. There are surprisingly few space-tech startups, and not much private investment in civilian space technology.

Israel is well-suited to become a leader in the space industry, said Herman, co-founder of TYPE5. “We already have decades of successful defense aerospace industry projects like Amos satellite, military-industrial giants (Rafael, Elbit, ELTA, IAI) and market know-how from IDF intelligence units (9900, 8200).”

Herman explained that TYPE5 is unique because their target portfolio companies will consist of Dual-Usage (Space-Earth) tech startups with existing products and customers (Round A stage). Further fueling the focus on space and space tech will be multinational pacts such as the Artemis Accords, with a focus on a manned mission to Mars.

Herman elaborated: “Recent defense structures and platforms are introduced (U.S. Space-Force); and tech’s best known entrepreneurs like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos have successfully entered the sector (SpaceX, Blue Origin) in order to lower the industry costs for launching materials to orbit, with projects like reusable rockets and nano satellites constellations (Starlink), which create the first global carriers for super-fast internet of things (IoT), internet data and connectivity delivery.

“By utilizing this knowledge in Israel’s defense aerospace and SpaceTech, the same way Israel became known as a startup nation—with its young and vibrant entrepreneurship scene—Israel is poised to become the SpaceTech Nation.”

Herman believes that Israel will become a leader in the space industry “by investing in critical space infrastructure that will set the tone for the new economy and act as the DeepTech backbones of a growing industry.”

Yaron Sagi, co-founder of TYPE5, said simply: “If we can find and invest in the Israeli ‘Mobileye of Space,’ we have done well.”

Herman continued to explain the purpose of TYPE5: “To enable investors access into the growing public sector of the private aerospace industry—by tapping into the lead catalysts verticals, these will unlock humanity’s potential in developing a modernized and sustainable SpaceTech ecosystem.”

When discussing which areas of innovation and tech TYPE5 invests in, Herman said: “Our innovative pipeline portfolio companies will be focused on solving the greatest challenges for deep space exploration. For instance, developing technologies to utilize in space for manufacturing at zero gravity (Optics, MedTech, Metamaterials); producing oxygen in deep space; becoming a fuel supplier for future space missions. Moreover, becoming a world leader in personal radiation protection solutions; making available medical technologies and supplies in space; and improving LEO (low Earth orbit) satellites applications markets and ecosystems. All of our portfolio companies will be at post-seed/Round A in the commercialization stage, with dual markets (Earth-Space).”

Herman lays out five fields TYPE5 are involved in:

  • Transportation and propulsion: New technologies to propel and travel;
  • Robotics and Automation: Hardware for making space work automated;
  • Quantum computation: Next generation of computers for networks, finances, hardware and software;
  • New energy systems: Transmission of electricity wirelessly, and new sustainable sources of energy;
  • Next generation of biomedical: Space pharma manufacturing in zero gravity and biocare for human missions to space.

“Existing funds don’t understand the complexities of analyzing space investments, to estimate a company’s value and how to rank companies in the sector,” said Herman. We have researched the area for the past two years and have learned it. Space is a new industrial-economic area, whose impact Israel can’t ignore if it wants to remain innovative.

“We are at the point where the infrastructure of the space economy is being built,” Danhirsch said. “The process of opening space has begun and, as a result, it is moving from defense to the private sector, and new technologies and new regulations are being introduced.”

Bensimon is convinced that they will need to find support from the Jewish community outside of Israel. “We are at the early stages and will need the help of the outside world.”

As well as developing the fund, TYPE5 wants to establish SpaceTech Nation—an industry ecosystem dedicated to advancing the space sector in Israel through events, conferences, meet-ups and dedicated communities.

What is Herman’s vision for the future? “To make Israel a SpaceTech center accelerator program and unlock the SpaceTech ecosystem with leading cities and countries around the world. To shift the space economy by realizing the potential technologies that will capitalize on this new industrial age.”

By Benjy Singer

 

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