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Catalyst Space Accelerator, headquartered at the Catalyst Campus in downtown Colorado Springs, held a well-attended Community Days event on May 23-24. Designed to increase awareness of Department of Defense (DoD) innovation and networking opportunities, as well as to connect prime and large Space contractors with ‘smalls’ – smaller defense contractors – attendees included Space-focused businesses, entrepreneurs, and subject matter experts, all of them eager to learn the best ways to engage with DoD as well as prime and large defense contractors.
After opening remarks by Catalyst Space Accelerator and Catalyst Campus leadership, the Community Days events were launched by two outstanding guest speakers. Col Steve “Bucky” Butow, Space Portfolio Director of Defense Innovation Unit (DIU), opened the event by discussing the challenges DIU, the Catalyst Space Accelerator, and similar organizations were founded to address. In describing DIU’s purpose, Col Butow explained that DIU wants to “get out there on the edge of our comfort level and figure out ways that we can work with innovative commercial companies that never had any kind of relationship with the Department of Defense.” The ultimate goal, he explained, is to “build and grow the National Security Innovation Base.” Speed and collaboration were both heavily emphasized in his presentation, with DIU working to get their contract awards down to 60 days, a very quick turnaround.
The featured guest speaker that afternoon was Maj Gen (Ret) Jay Lindell, Aerospace & Defense Industry Champion, Office of Economic Development & International Trade (OEDIT). His presentation covered the myriad economic, military, technological and ultimately geographical reasons why Colorado is clearly at the epicenter of the aerospace industry. Maj Gen (Ret) Lindell started off by pointing out that Colorado is first in the nation per capita in aerospace jobs, has 180+ aerospace companies and more than 500 suppliers who provide space-related products & services. Also impressive are the figures for the full defense industry in Colorado, which is responsible for 148,000 direct jobs created, 7.5% of all jobs in Colorado, and $16.4B in labor income.
Maj Gen (Ret) Lindell listed the surprising array of aerospace technologies and industries thriving throughout the state, including varying satellites, GPS III, space-based infrared, and other major space technologies. Strengthened by the presence of Air Force Space Command, National Space Defense Center, National Space Council, 30 Federal labs and an extensive university system, Colorado “is at a nexus,” according to Maj Gen (Ret) Lindell. “Exciting times! It means a lot to be right here, at the center of it all, in Colorado Aerospace.” As for the potential Space Force being debated, Maj Gen (Ret) Lindell emphasized that “US Space Command is going to happen. It’s a matter of where it’s going to stand up. I would say there is a greater than 50% chance that later this year US Space Command will stand up here in Colorado.”
The two days of events that surrounded this dramatic pronouncement also included two panels of speakers with plenty of opportunities for questions and answers. The first panel included representatives from a wide spectrum of DoD innovation units – DIU, AFWERX, SMC 2.0 Innovation, National Security Innovation Network (NSIN, formerly MD 5), AF CyberWorx, and SOFWERX, with DEFENSEWERX calling in for a portion of the discussion. Panel two featured networking organizations National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA), Information Systems Security Association (ISSA), AFCEA, Young AFCEANs, and Defense Entrepreneurs Forum (DEF). Each panel was followed by a breakout session wherein each organization held informal conversations and networked with interested attendees.
To emphasize the supreme importance of connecting within a collaborative community, the Catalyst Space Accelerator hosted an “All Things Space” Happy Hour that filled Catalyst Campus with industry, government, and investors interested in Space-related connections.
The most eagerly anticipated Community Days event, judging from the many comments made, was “Prime Pitch Day,” held on May 24. Ten prime/large defense contractors were given five minutes apiece to pitch to the ‘smalls,’ a deliberate reversal of the typical dynamic of small companies pitching to the large ones. These larger contractors were asked to explain what viable paths there might be for smaller companies to engage with them.
The primes or large space companies who pitched were Boeing, Raytheon, Konsberg Satellite Services (KSAT), Harris Corporation, SAIC, General Dynamics, Viasat, Lockheed Martin, Booz Allen Hamilton, and Ball Aerospace. The audience was able to connect with presenters during the networking lunch that followed. Troy Rhoadarmer, CEO of Guidestar Optical Systems, an alumnus of the inaugural Catalyst Space Accelerator cohort, said that while he enjoyed day one of the program, he was by far the most interested in the pitches by the primes. Having been involved in the brainstorming session that resulted in the idea of “Prime Pitch Day,” he was excited to see it implemented so quickly with a “very good list of primes.”
Another inaugural cohort participant, Michael Hurowitz, CTO and Senior VP of Engineering for Orbital Micro Systems, was thrilled with the entire event and, like everyone else, seemed to be most interested in the pitches. When asked if he felt the event had been effective, the compliments overflowed: “I come to any event Catalyst Campus will let me in to. It's been amazing. Tons of good contacts, business opportunities, I made good friends, we've made good customer contacts here, and I’ve had the opportunity to learn a whole new sphere, which is the fun part. This is one of the most progressive communities in the state because they are trying to solve so many big problems at once.” Current cohort companies described the Community Days as “Spectacular” and as an event that “made making connections very easy.”
Lt David Buehler, Government Lead for Resilient Commercial Space Communication Accelerator, was happy to see the event come together so quickly and smoothly, with ten primes agreeing to participate. He was also grateful to the innovation units represented: “Thanks to AFWERX, DIU, SMC 2.0, AF CyberWorx, and NSIN for your time and candor speaking with the small business community about how the military is shifting gears to move at the speed of the startup community. It’s good to see the results of your efforts in action.”
About Catalyst Space Accelerator
The AFRL Space Vehicles Directorate Catalyst Accelerator is a Space-focused defense and national security industry accelerator. Headquartered on the Catalyst Campus, a collaborative ecosystem in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Catalyst Space Accelerator is a public-private partnership hosted by the Center for Technology, Research, and Commercialization (C-TRAC), Catalyst Campus for Technology and Innovation (CCTI), the Colorado Small Business Development Center (SBDC) TechSource, Space Capital Colorado, and the Colorado Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC), in partnership with the Air Force Research Laboratory to provide a robust, mentor-driven curriculum for accelerator teams. https://catalystaccelerator.space
Lora Premo Catalyst Space Accelerator 7196596418 Press.Release@catalystcampus.org