NASA partners with venture capital group

NASA has chosen a team of venture capitalists to run its new firm, Red Planet Capital.

Today, NASA officials announced the principals they have selected for the strategic venture capital fund:

  • Peter Banks, co-founder and partner of XR Ventures, Grand Rapids, Mich.
  • Graham Burnette, general partner of the EA-Capital Fund family, San Mateo, Calif.
  • Jacques Vallee, co-founder of EA-Capital Fund.
Red Planet Capital, a nonprofit organization, is based in San Mateo. The NASA-funded entity was established to help the agency gain access to new technologies through private-sector innovators and investors who typically have not done business with NASA, according to agency officials. NASA wants earlier and broader exposure to emerging technologies that will meet its future mission requirements.

Officials at Red Planet Capital said the fund will focus on eight business sectors: information technology, communications, biomedical support, environmental systems, smart manufacturing, man/machine systems, energy and advanced materials. Within these fields, the principals will divide assets to support the development of technologies that have government and commercial applications.

The principals will invest as much as about $5 million per company over multiple rounds of financing, with initial startup funding as low as $250,000, Red Planet Capital officials said.

NASA officials said the principals’ responsibilities include locating investment opportunities, performing due diligence and managing equity investments in portfolio companies. NASA will provide strategic direction and technical input.

NASA also announced today that Gilman Louie , former In-Q-Tel chief executive officer and chairman, will serve on the firm’s board of trustees. In-Q-Tel, which is the CIA’s venture capital firm, was the federal government’s first venture capital endeavor.

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