By Irene Klotz
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) - Venture capital groups invested $1.8 billion in commercial space startups in 2015, more than in the last 15 years combined, a report by aerospace consultants the Tauri Group shows.
The lion’s share of the 2015 space investments was a $1 billion round of financing for Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, founded and overseen by technology entrepreneur Elon Musk, who also runs Tesla Motors Inc.
“The year 2015 was a record-setting year for space ventures, with investment and debt financing of $2.7 billion,” according to the Tauri Group’s “Start-Up Space” report, which was released on Monday. (http://bit.ly/1mYlaxL)
While individual investors are not always disclosed, the Tauri Group found that 21 people on the Forbes’ billionaires list have an affiliation to a space enterprise. The investors include Microsoft Corp's Bill Gates, Amazon.com Inc's Jeff Bezos, Alphabet Inc's Larry Page, Dish Network Corp's Charles Ergen, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, Tencent's Ma Huateng, Las Vegas Sands Corporation's Sheldon Adelson, Google's Eric Schmidt, Grupo Salinas' Ricardo Salinas and Virgin Galactic's Richard Branson.
The Tauri Group report was partly funded by NASA.
Since 2000, space ventures have won more than $13.3 billion in investment, including $5.1 billion in debt financing, the study showed.
Since 2000, companies have paid $2.2 billion to acquire space ventures, with deals worth $1.7 billion occurring in the last five years. Those include Monsanto Co’s purchase of the Climate Corporation for $930 million, Google’s purchase of Skybox Imaging for $478 million and ViaSat Inc’s acquisition of WildBlue for $568 million, the study showed.
About 50 venture capital firms are investing in space including Bessemer, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, First Round Capital, Founders Fund, Khosla, and RRE Ventures. The investments include SpaceX, Accion Systems, Planet Labs, Rocket Lab, Skybox Imaging and Spire Global.
Overall, venture capital investments in U.S. firms totaled almost $60 billion in 2015, with the software industry pulling in $23.6 billion, followed by biotechnology at $7.4 billion, a January 2016 report by PricewaterhouseCoopers and the National Venture Capital Association showed.
Venture capital investments in media and entertainment companies in 2015 totaled $4.7 billion, financial services brought in $3 billion, and medical devices and equipment companies attracted $2.7 billion in investments, the study showed.
(Reporting by Irene Klotz; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)