Chinese venture capital firm Haiyin Capital has announced investments into a number of high-tech U.S. firms, many of whom are currently on a trip to China to make presentations and visit with investors and businesses there. One such firm is XCOR Aerospace, a commercial space company which aims to take tourists and payloads on suborbital trips into space.
A person with knowledge of the deal has told FORBES that Haiyin’s total investment in the company is $5 million at a valuation of $140 million. When contacted, XCOR declined to comment on this figure or investment.
Haiyin Capital makes an attractive offer to its investment partners, founding partner Yuquan Wang told me: the ability to leverage Chinese manufacturing to help them get their products to market faster, and the opportunity to make inroads into the growing Chinese market while they pursue the U.S. market was well. Things are different for XCOR, though. The company won’t be doing any manufacturing in China, but Wang says that the reason for investing in them is much simpler than that.
“XCOR is a different story. We just like the team. They’re dedicated to something that’s really cool,” he said.
Andrew Nelson, XCOR’s former COO who still works with the company on a consulting basis, told me that the influx of money will be helpful for XCOR as it gears up to conduct test flights of its Lynx spacecraft later this year.
“This round allows us to finish Lynx and build out a bigger marketing and sales program,” he told me. “It will also let us get through our test program and allow our wing design to mature. It’s a challenging wing to build. Six years ago we couldn’t build it, but now we can thanks to 3D printing of titanium parts and advances in composite materials.”
Col. Rick Searfoss, a former NASA astronaut who now is now the Chief Test Pilot for XCOR, is among those participating in Haiyin’s event in Beijing. He’s very positive about the new investment into the company.
“I’m glad our technology is being accepted worldwide,” he told me. “VC isn’t always a good fit with aerospace investment – it’s not like an app that you can get out in 8 months for a huge return. But China’s historically known for taking a long range view of things.”
China is also an attractive target for commercial space. XCOR has so far already sold over 300 tickets for its suborbital flights, over 10% of which have been sold to people in mainland China – including some notable celebrities. During this trip, Searfoss will be presenting some of the excitement about flying a ship in space and what it will be like to fly XCOR’s Lynx.
“As Chinese people are getting richer, they want to do something really cool,” Wang told me. “The meaning of life can’t just be making money.”
That said, Wang hasn’t yet bought a ticket for his flight.
“I take the risk doing investments,” he said. “In my personal life, I’m not a risk taker. But I’ll buy a ticket after a few people have safely gone into space and come back!”
On a more serious note, he added, “Yes, I really would like to try it. But that’s not why I’m investing. Mostly I want to show respect. I love these guys. They’re my heroes. And if it lets me go into space, that’d be fun!”
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