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Pythom fundraise debrief

Published on:
August 13th 2019

A spellbound night.

The setting was a bit James Bond'ish so the subject for the very first Pythom fundraise was a given: "The World is Not Enough".

Patroned by David Pierce Jones (world record for the fastest ski to the North Pole) and his brood, we assembled in the family villa with a view of Alamo Square's "postcard row"  famous for its Victorian houses back-dropped by San Francisco's downtown skyscrapers.

Built in 1904, the Archbishop's Mansion survived the 1906 earthquake and hosted Pope Pius XII among its many great adventures. This evening, it was our stage.

Team Pythom is very unusual in the space industry. We are engineers and scientists but also explorers, with no less than 25 Guinness world records among us, from mountaineering, polar and ocean feats.

Hunting for sponsors is our second nature but this was a bit different. Below sparkling chandeliers, we pitched our expedition to a noble crowd of artists, investors, inventors and space tech executives, some 50 people in all.

Our Mission Impossible: Persuade them to help us get to Mars.

This being our very first Pythom fundraise we weren't sure what to expect, or how to set it up. We brought some props and proceeded to answer the usual expedition questions: Where are you going, how will you get there, how long time will it take and how much will it cost.

Tom explained how when we plan a mountain climb, we don’t start from BC but at the summit - first of all figuring out how to get back down. This approach made us design in the first place a spacecraft that would get us back from Mars to Earth, an out-of-the-box strategy that eventually led to our unique propulsion system.

Bottom line is, we use the exact same components for the entire mission, from Earth to Mars and back. Key is small, simple, light and affordable. In terms of efficiency, the prop system could double the payload capacity of any spacecraft today, including the moon landers.

We talked about raising money the explorers’ way and revisited how our predecessors did it: Marco Polo hitched a ride with dad and uncle, Cook mostly got by on his physician salary while National Geographic backed his competitor Peary. Amundsen pretty much stole the boat that would take him to the continent. Columbus was not really bankrolled by the Queen but got her to undersign a letter of intent that helped move his VCs. So we'll try it all.

On space resources, we talked mining and as a footnote, mentioned that NASA values the asteroid belt at 100 Billion dollars for every human currently living on Earth.

Finally, we told the crowd that Armstrong’s walk on the moon in 1969 remains the most-watched TV event in human history. By contrast, the Rio Olympics was watched only by 10% of the US population. Those TV rights sold for $8 billion. Imagine the value of the first human steps on Mars.

Finishing the short about our mission we encouraged everyone to also get to know each other.

Cornered by the youngest inquiring what the deal is with Area 51 was Bill Diamond, head of the SETI institute, listening for signs of life in space, and immortalized by our very favorite movie Contact, featuring Matthew McConaughey and Jodi Foster.

In fact, the software created by our former company Humanedgetech for expedition comms from remote places was named for the movie, so having Bill at our first fundraiser was a big honor.

In a spot sat Al Tadros, VP, Space infrastructure at Maxar. The company was selected this spring by NASA to provide power, maneuvering, attitude control, comms and docking for the Lunar Gateway; a base camp spacecraft planned to orbit around the moon in 2024, serving lunar surface workers with living quarters and a lab. Maxar specializes in high-power solar electric propulsion (used on 36 satellites on-orbit today) and solar panels that roll-out in space.

A bunch of bright minds arrived from Hypercubes, a startup that plans to monitor the health of our entire planet with sensors placed in space.

We had media and artists and influencers, filmmakers, investors, and VC firms, sipping an orange Mars cocktail formulated for the event by the bartenders.

Meetings got planned, collaborations were formed, hands shook hands. More importantly, there was a sudden purpose in the air.

A Papal Blessing swept the rooms and even the Painted Ladies bounced a little I'm sure.

Tina Sjogren
Tina Sjogren
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