Cynic or Critic? April 26, 2006Posted by Thomas Olson in Uncategorized.
I think this new blog is a great idea – thanks, Shubber, for starting it and inviting us to participate. I’m already out there blogging on a variety of other issues, so I look forward to sharing views with some of my good friends on the seemingly interminable challenges involved in getting people into space in our lifetimes.
For a long time now, as many of you know, I’ve been working on the concept of a “populist” funding mechanism to get some projects going and expand the enabling business infrastructure. At this point I have to admit I’ve also drunk the kool-aid to some extent. The core premise was that so-called “new space” companies had a lot of great engineering and business concepts that were being ignored by VCs, institutions, and Wall Street in general – ergo, We the People would bypass those old stodgy institutions and create something new.
Turns out Wall Street may have been looking at this industry after all, and came to some conclusions. After spending several years of my own life looking under the hood, I came to the very reluctant conclusion, myself, that most of these firms, while filled to the brim with incredible engineering talent, were sadly lacking when it comes to business principles and planning.
The entire New Space premise seems to be “build it and they will come” – but not enough building is happening, and, predictably, no one is coming. No one seems to accept that we’re about 25 years behind Silicon Valley and there’s at least that much work to do. There’s no other option but to roll up our sleeves and do it, however long it takes. There will be no shortcuts.
So, in this forum, I consider myself more of a critic than a cynic – I want new things to happen in space, but I’m highly critical at this point of the business skills of the new crop of “alt.space” entrepreneurs. I intend to hold their feet to the fire from here on in.
Many decry the insider status of NASA/DoD contractors exemplified by the term “BoLockNor”, but it seems that several are jockeying simply to be the next generation of contractors, as opposed to being true space-commercial entrepreneurs. If they succeed, good for them, but everyone else, 20 years from now, will be railing against “TransConX”. What does that do for our children and grandchildren, to work hard simply so that a fortunate few can be the last guys in the Country Club?