5 Questions with Matt Kozlov, Managing Director of Techstars Space

Mar 08, 2023

Matt is the Managing Director of Techstars Space, Techstars Healthcare sponsored by Cedars-Sinai, Point32Health, UCI Health, and UnitedHealthcare, and Techstars Los Angeles powered by J.P. Morgan. He has invested in over 80 rapidly growing deep tech, healthcare, B2B, and ecommerce companies. Graduates include: OrbitFab, Morpheus Space, Pixxel, Tasso Inc., AppliedVR, Deep6 AI, Artera Health, Silversheet (acquired by AMN Healthcare) and NarrativeDX (acquired by Press Ganey). Prior to joining Techstars Matt was the Head of Corporate Development at Telesign, a leading antifraud firm and one of LA’s fastest growing technology companies (acquired by BICS). Previously he was CEO of Moonshark, a venture backed by Creative Artists Agency (CAA) and Qualcomm bringing to market original mobile entertainment. He has also worked at Sony Music Entertainment (VP, Web & Mobile Products), Yahoo! (corporate strategy, product development) and Bain and Company (management consulting). He graduated from Harvard, where he studied economics.

01. What are you looking for in startups for Techstars Space?

We are looking for the next generation of space technology companies, businesses from adjacent industries (i.e., automotive, agriculture, energy, mining, finance, and manufacturing) that seek access to the aerospace industry as a primary go-to-market channel, and technologies that can be applied commercially into the space and aerospace sectors (i.e., autonomy, robotics, etc).  Examples of categories we’re looking to invest in include: SmallSats, Applied AI and ML, Digital Design and Collaboration tools, Geospatial Analytics, Autonomous Systems, Robotics, Advanced Manufacturing, Advanced Structures, Systems-on-chip computing, Avionics, Drones/UAS, Communications, Earth Observation, Edge Computing and Big Data Processing, In-Orbit Servicing, Navigation, Perception, Sensors, Quantum technologies, Cybersecurity, and Power Systems (energy generation, energy storage, energy management).

02. What are some of the biggest learnings from your career and entrepreneurial journey that you bring to being a Techstars Managing Director?

A+ teams can adapt their business and find a path forward even in the grimmest of times. Grit, passion, commitment, and creativity are essential qualities in a founding team. I also believe that when the DOD, NASA, or Prime engages with a startup in the right way, magic can happen. Product/market fit and scale can accelerate dramatically. A successful implementation with an important customer can have an unexpectedly large impact on a company’s sales pipeline and investor interest.

03. What is your favorite thing about the Space sector?

How does anyone NOT get excited about the space industry today?  I originally started building this program in 2018 because I saw Space as a wildly interesting convergence of commercial innovation, national security, and the advancement of science and technology. There are few other industries where you can fund a company building absolutely bleeding edge novel technology for Space that can protect our country’s national security interests, help fight climate change, and grow into a big, profitable thriving business.  Space founders are also among the most technically gifted, visionary, entrepreneurs I’ve ever worked with.  Helping bring their dreams into reality is a true honor for me, whether it’s helping build the future of in-space refueling (OrbitFab), stable, always available power sources for remote environments (Zeno Power), advanced, blazing fast semiconductors (Lux Semiconductors, Natural Intelligence Systems), constellations of satellites for climate monitoring (Pixxel, Hydrosat), the future of networked quantum computing (NextGen Quantum), or hypersonic point-to-point transfer (Fenix Space).  Our Space founders are all building transformational, world changing, but incredibly challenging businesses, but with the help of partnerships from the US Space Force and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, as well as our world-class mentors, Techstars Space founders consistently succeed.  In our first class alone 70% of the companies have gone on to raise $10M+ rounds (and some have now raised +$50M).

04. What does Give First mean to you and how do you apply it in your work and life?

I first learned about “Give First” as a mentor for the Techstars Disney program in 2014 and have been mentoring as many Techstars programs as possible ever since. I also mentor startups participating in some pretty fantastic non-Techstars programs as well (like KidsX and Patriot Bootcamp). Having worked across a variety of industries (entertainment, mobile gaming, cybersecurity, healthcare, aerospace) I’ve met some truly wonderful, interesting and accomplished people, and whenever I meet a great founder I can usually come up with a handful of introductions that can really move the needle for the company. I also love helping companies refine their product and go-to-market strategies and think critically about their own business. Frankly, I’m one of the luckiest people in the world in that I get to basically #GiveFirst for a living!

05. Describe a moment/situation with a startup founder or team where you felt like you made a difference.

The magic of my job is that every day I get to help incredible founders who are solving some of humanity’s greatest challenges (especially in healthcare and aerospace). Helping these companies find investors who believe in their mission and can join us on the next leg of their journey is deeply satisfying. Equally satisfying, though, is helping a company get through a particularly rough patch, whether it’s almost running out of capital, parting ways with a cofounder, or facing the need to pivot or peril. When I can help a company pull through one of these rough patches and come out stronger on the other end, I feel deeply thankful for their trust and that I get to do what I do.