Jonathan Fentzke Joins as MD of the Techstars Allied Space Accelerator

December 18th, 2019

Today, as I announce my role as Managing Director of the Techstars Allied Space Accelerator, I remember the words of JFK during his historic 1962 speech – “we choose to go to the moon.” As we enter into a new age of space exploration and experience the benefits of terrestrial applications of space technologies, I, too, am eager to go to new, unexplored areas of the industry. I’m excited to welcome the future 2020 class of diverse, innovative space-focused startups creating solutions that will continue our mission to go further and create an outsized impact on society.

While I was tremendously inspired by JFK’s speech, my first foray into space was while earning my master’s degree focused on non-linear dynamics. I worked with the NASA program replacing the Hubble telescope, which heightened my interest in space research and development. This experience led me to pursue a PhD in aerospace engineering sciences at the University of Colorado at Boulder where my true entrepreneurial spirit transpired through mentorship.

Eager to learn and grow, I experienced the diversity of thought and challenges associated with research and development for space plasmas while living and working all over the world. But, it was my time living and working in Puerto Rico at the Arecibo Observatory (the world’s most sensitive radio telescope – for the Contact fans out there) that formed the ideas that would blossom into a string of startups based on my frustrations with the lack of connectivity and access to information from space.

Following my time at CU, I founded several companies including InSpace, an open innovation incubator for mobile sensors and remote sensing sectors, and OmniEarth, a software company focused on water resource management and disaster response. After exiting, I again experienced these problems firsthand during the devastation of Hurricane Maria. This inspired me to focus my energy on helping founders build products that help people and areas in need.

Early in my founder journey I was mentored, coached and connected through an accelerator program, which was a large proponent of my personal success. I have since invested in many startups, traveled the world to understand how to provide access to more opportunity and continued to advocate for and mentor founders using the principles of #givefirst. It is my commitment to founders and the unequivocal match with Techstars’ mission statement that led me to this Managing Director role.

The space industry has been traditionally inefficient and costly. However, governments and commercial companies are now actively and successfully building new technologies that can lower barriers to entry and create more efficiency. While I applaud the successes of larger and more established players in the space technology ecosystem, I’m drawn to the innovative approaches happening in both industry and government today. The recognition that lower cost access to space, new technologies leveraging space-based assets and frontier technologies derived from legacy technology for terrestrial applications democratizes access is powerful. These market forces enable massive scale and create value for society. That’s where the new Techstars Allied Space Accelerator comes into play.

This virtual program is focused on entrepreneurs in “New Space” and frontier technologies with a global impact on the space ecosystem. It was important for Techstars to create a virtual space accelerator in order for participating companies to be able to continue to work and build on their business models with flexibility, while maintaining access to Techstars’ amazing mentor network without having to relocate their team.

The Techstars Allied Space Accelerator is looking for companies disrupting and innovating in areas such as: machine learning platforms, network- and physical-infrastructure monitoring, autonomy, geospatial analytics, space systems, human machine interfaces, and enterprise mobile applications. Given the growing market demand, I am looking forward to working with founders to help them learn and iterate quickly with a commitment to their long-term success post-graduation from the program.

Ten selected companies will have the chance to work alongside an esteemed selection of partners of the program – the United States Air Force, the Netherlands Ministry of Defense, the Norwegian Space Agency and the Norwegian Ministry of Defense. The Techstars Allied Space Accelerator partners will be great allies for our founders as they build solutions that leverage space exploration technologies for improving everyday life on Earth.

The Techstars Allied Space Accelerator invites founders from all over the world who are interested in growing their startup with a focus on markets in the United States, Scandinavia and Western Europe to apply for the inaugural class. Together, we can make an impact for the better. I am really excited to help founders leverage the worldwide network of Techstars to succeed.

Applications for our inaugural program are open now through March 1, 2020. Be sure to check out the program page to learn more and to apply.

Per aspera ad astra!

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