Pathfinder

An Interview with Mason Angel

Mo Islam
Mason, thanks for being with us today. Very excited to have you.

Mason Angel
Thanks, Mo. Happy to be here.

Mo Islam
So I can’t wait to talk about your flight with Blue Origin. That was just a few weeks ago. But before we jump into that, maybe give the audience a little bit of background about yourself. What is Industrious Ventures and how you got to building the firm?

Mason Angel
Yeah, sure. I’d be happy to. So Industrious Ventures started a little over four years ago and the thesis was to invest in these legacy industries that have kind of been, I hate to use the term ignored, but maybe not as much capital has been invested into them. It was more of the era of SaaS. And so we thought maybe there’s an advantage given our kind of family’s background and expertise and also understanding where these new companies will grow. So that’s how it started. And you really my role. I just helped get it started as an analyst, helped build it up. And then, you know, a couple of years ago, I took over full time as a sole partner. So I’ve been focusing more on aerospace and defense since then, and continue to do so in the future.

Mo Islam
So you mentioned legacy industries. So maybe talk a little bit about just a couple examples of what you mean by that. And then you mentioned family. You brought up family and family’s expertise. So what is the family’s expertise?

Mason Angel
so it’s funny, ever since I was a little boy, I kind of grew up like my earliest memory is GE trains, locomotives. you know, on that, my dad, you know, 25 years at GE, he currently sits on the chairman of GE energy and then, another industrial gas company, Lindy, who he’s previously CEO. So, that’s his background and, and really just by, you know, osmosis or being in the room, that’s where I pursued kind of my higher understanding. So that’s where I studied, whether it was investments, technology adaptation, whatever it may be. So that was kind of the core of our conversations around Christmas time and other family excursions. So that’s kind of the only background. What was the other question? I forgot.

Mo Islam
So the other question is just around the legacy industries. So like, give us one or two examples of what you mean by that.

Mason Angel
Yeah, of course. So agriculture was one. If you think about, you know, some transformational times at the higher Bosch formula creation, which actually, you know, expanded our actual capability to grow. There’s certain, you know, transformational phases that occur and whether it be chemicals or, you know, other industries like steel manufacturing, the theme of iron or even, you know, locomotives. So there’s turned technological revolutions that occur and really focusing on those core technologies. So I would say agriculture, supply chain, manufacturing, and then recently it’s been aerospace focused.

Mo Islam
So am I thinking about it right when, if I say like you’re thinking of these like kind of old school, you know, industries, heavy industrial that today because of sort of innovations and meaningful momentum behind sort of software enabled products and technologies and obviously artificial intelligence and, you know, sort of that sort of intersection unlocking sort of value for those industries that we haven’t seen before. Am I kind of thinking about that right?

Mason Angel
No, I would say you so eloquently put it, which I failed to, but yes, you nailed it. You got it.

Mo Islam
Okay, there you go. There you go. All right, well, so we’ll come back to all of that because we’ll talk, you know, you have, I know you’re doing yourself a little bit of a disservice. You’ve done a lot of great investments and you’ve done, you’ve helped partner with a lot of amazing companies, which we’ll talk about in a little bit. But let’s talk about the flight. So not too long ago, you were the one of the crew members of New Shepard. This was after a long hiatus, after a little bit of an anomaly. So you were the first flight back to space. Tell us about the experience. What was it like the first moment you saw Earth from space? Because I remember you called me a while ago saying, hey, you’re going to do this, which was awesome. I was very instantly jealous. I was like, that’s super incredible. But you got to do it. You got to fly to space via Blue Origin and you got to experience that whole, what’s been transformational for a lot of people. I mean, I just remember when William Shatner came back down and they interviewed him immediately and he like got all teary, got all emotional, talking to Jeff Bezos. And I was wondering, I wonder where Mason fell in sort of that, sort of that transformational experience. Okay, I’ll stop talking, tell us.

Mason Angel
No, I mean, it’s funny though, I didn’t cry when I walked out of the cab, so I cried inside. I was the last one out, so I put the moment to myself and I kind of just took it all in. I put a little tear and I was like, all right, get out of the way, like cameras are outside. But really, it was the most beautiful experience I’ve ever had, but at the same time, petrifying because when I started to look, I actually was inverted when I was looking downward. So can imagine I was looking up at the stars, what I thought of the stars, it was nothing. It was a black void. It was very, it was the darkest, blackest black I’ve ever seen in my life. Which, you know, is not what you see on earth.

It’s not that same view, but it’s so crisp. It’s like, it’s like a high death. It’s crazy. You’re there. There’s a, there’s a couple panels of glass separating you from that void. But then I kind of looked down and I saw, I saw earth and it was absolutely stunning and so majestic, beautiful. It’s kind of like, it was that feeling you get, you know, if you ever go away, like summer camp, or you leave home for too long, you go to college, you come home, and you’ve been away for too long. And it’s like the warm embrace of a mother, you know, it’s like, it’s just nice. It’s great. It’s a great feeling. You know, it’s like being home. And it’s crazy. It’s a dichotomy. You know, it’s big, it’s small at the same time. It’s interesting. Yeah.

Mo Islam
How was the actual experience compared to the expectation? Because I certainly plan one day to do something similar, and I can only imagine what it must feel like, and then you have your expectation of what it will be like, and then you do it, and then it’s like, does it meet that expectation? Does it surpass the expectations? Is it nothing like you even imagined?

Mason Angel
I tried to keep my expectations low. I mean, Mo, to your point, you know, I waited two years, but some of these NASA astronauts, they wait six plus years and some of them never ultimately get to go. So just kind of keep grounded in that. And the expectations were just blow my mind. Do you know what? T minus four seconds, I was probably the closest I’ve ever come from just instant regret. Yeah, because you just I mean the emotions are swarming you’re like, alright, it’s getting loud. It’s deafening, you know, the rockets vibrating you can feel the fuel. The I mean, it’s just insane. You’re on the rocket Mo. And you know how we met we were watching that and we were kind of laughing about it. But then you’re on the other side of it. And you’re like, holy cow, this is for real.

Mo Islam
So, I have a question. I don’t know how much of this you’re allowed to say, but when you’re in the New Shepard, when they’ve strapped you in, you’re in it for the ride, is there like, you know how when you ride a roller coaster, you’re like, hey, get me off, right? What’s the moment where you are not allowed to get off anymore? At what point do they say you’re a –

Mason Angel
I think it’s two minutes. They’re really nice. All right. So you’re we were in there, we had a delay of 20 minutes. So I was in the castle for 40 minutes. I mean, listen, I think I called correctly. It was like three minutes, four minutes. You’ve got you still got some time to get comfortable in the capsule. And it’s air conditioned. They do a great job. You know, you’re I fell asleep a little bit at one point just because you’ve been getting up so early. Yeah, I was the seats are amazing. It’s like taking a nap.

Mo Islam
How many other people were in the capsule with you?

Mason Angel
It was myself and five others. And I was, my head was directly next to the egress, ingress door. And then, yeah, I heard everything.

Mo Islam
Right. So if you need to make a quick exit, you could be the first one out.

Mason Angel
I joke with you, I did not walk into expecting this much responsibility, but that kind of evolved throughout the training. But great time. I mean, I took, you know, it was, it was like space camp. It’s amazing. It’s awesome. You know, everyone should want to feel that way.

Mo Islam
Yeah, well, so I actually do want to talk a little bit about the training. So I have to assume there’s not a ton of training. And I think that’s a good thing, right? Because one of the things I do want to talk to you a little bit about is how your experience has shaped your view towards the business of space tourism, which we’ll talk about in a bit. But back during my investing days, I had the opportunity to fly a helicopter that uses basically flight automation, like the basically flight automation software to automate a lot of parts of flight. And I think back to that experience a lot because, you know, I remember going to California to test fly this helicopter, this Robinson R44, which is one of the most dangerous helicopters in the world. And, the CEO of the company said, hey, we’re only going to give you 15 minutes in the simulator. That’s all you get. And then you’re going to go and fly. And I’d never been in a helicopter at that time. To make a long story short, after 15 minutes, I flew this thing. Now, there was a test pilot next to me, granted. But I flew a helicopter. And I remember thinking, wow, it’s actually truly incredible how far tech has come that you can do these pretty absurd things with very little training. So I kind of you know, ask you like, and maybe there is a lot of training, I don’t know, but like how much training was involved to to ready yourself for the flight.

Mason Angel
First of all, that’s a great story, Mo. We have to keep on that another time. Can you imagine if you do that for rockets? Like, hey, you want to test fly our rocket with a red bomb and we’ll simulate a launch. No, it’s your point, yes. I think if you think about the factors, everything can go wrong. The human element is definitely critical in that. So if you can remove as much of the human element as possible, I think it’s safer overall. Unfortunately, the safety regulations have been enacted by the FAA really guide you know, mission aboard sequences and inserting, you know, self-destruct or rapid, rapid disassembly, whatever you want to call. So a lot of autonomy has already been placed into these rockets, fortunately. So yes, I felt safe the entire time I followed the training and I was, I was okay. The one anomaly was on the way down. But you know, we can talk about that.

Mo Islam
Yep, that was the parachute issue. My last question on this is just the feeling of weightlessness. Have you ever done one of those zero-g flights before or was this your first time experiencing weightlessness?

Mason Angel
First time and I have to, I really have to highly recommend do not go into a flip after that. I mean, that was a, they warned me. I didn’t, I didn’t listen. I was the closest I’ve ever come to vomiting and not at the same time. I was really just trying to hold it all in at that point. So yeah, overall amazing experience though. I mean, try it, you know, again, my expectations, I wanted to feel everything for the first time. I think perhaps other individuals, you know, wanted to stay in their seats. They could have the view of the earth the entire time, which I respect. I think that was actually a good idea for others. Yeah, I mean, it’s to each their own. But yeah, the Zero G experience was quite exhilarating.

Mo Islam
Would you do it again?

Mason Angel
Heck yeah, but you know, time will come eventually. Listen, we gotta get more people up there first, but there’s nothing like it in the world knowing you’re probably one of the fastest people in the world going Mach 2.3 and then you look at the G meter and it reads zero. I mean, that’s just the exhilarating feeling. You can’t help but smile.

Mo Islam
Yeah, yeah, yeah, totally. That’s awesome. All right, well, congratulations, man. That’s a truly unique experience. I’m glad you got to experience it. And what a story. What a story you’ll have for a long, long, long time. Even if it becomes a regular thing, right, you can say like you are one of the first. Like there hasn’t been that many people that have done this. Like you said, like we talked about earlier, like that Blue had been on a hiatus for a while, right? Because of the FAA investigation. So it’s not like they’re doing this thing every month, right? So it’s, yeah, great, great experience. So, yeah, so let’s talk about industrious. Let’s talk about some of your work there. So, you know, we talked a little bit about your thesis, right? Investing, you know, on your site, you say investing in the transformation of fundamental industries and processes, which we talked a little bit about, but how would you differentiate your firm from others? When you’re sitting in front of a founder and you’re talking to them about the strategic value that your firm offers to them, how do you describe that and think about that?

Mason Angel
You know, Mo, I try not to overcomplicate it really. I think Sequoia’s got a great point he made early on that I think it’s like something like 70% of VCs actually detract value or subtract value to the companies and really just knowing where your place is and managing expectations. So I really, I try to learn as much as I can about these industries so that I can actually be of relevance and then try to connect the dots and make introductions where it’s rational and the timing is right. Because it has to be both that has you know technology has to be at that level where it’s mature enough that the companies are willing to look and investigate it You know some of these older titans of industry perhaps and then at the same time, you know, you have one shot this so Just be ready. I mean manage expectations My job isn’t that hard. The hard job is the founder to be honest. So If they asked for something I’ll do it that you know within reason within you know, if in request I’ll put that way

Mo Islam
Yeah. So you mentioned earlier you’re spending quite a bit of time on A&D. How much of your focus is now aerospace and defense?

Mason Angel
90%, I’d say 10% agriculture and that’s still in conjunction with space. So if you think about space, it is a different sector in our mindset, but it’s, it’s tangential or it’s important to every single other legacy industry. So, I’m not seeing that, that capability and locking that service, whatever it may be is really going to be paramount to the future of these, these, these industries. you know, I could go on about the industrial revolutions that occur over time, but I think we’re kind of in that, in that era right now.

Mo Islam
So at a high level, what do you think about sort of the state of the space industry today, like as an investment category? Do you feel like, I mean, most of the tech industry and the sort of various sub-sectors have gone through a huge sort of like liquidity push over the last few years. And then that obviously slowed down with the rate hike cycle. So a lot of the hype, has certainly died down a lot of these technologies that are taking a lot longer to get to profitability. So without sort of stating the obvious though, like where’s sort of your head at right now with new space investments? Are you more excited than ever before? Are you take, you think the industry needs to take a breather? Like where’s your kind of head at in general?

Mason Angel
Great question. So I think listen, some companies got were funded that should have been funded and perhaps they’re funded too much. And again, not going to specifics, but we can buy top think of them top of our head. I think at the same time though, it was a great introduction for a lot of these non-traditional investors to see this, this industry. And I think, you know, while there are, there’s going to be a graveyard of companies, unfortunately, there’s going to be a lot of success. And that’s going to draw a lot more capital. And I mean, look for SpaceX now. You know, it’s kind of, it’s on every major banks investment analyst watch list. what he’s doing right now is transformational and then, you know, Kathy would as well, and what she’s kind of bring along. So, yeah, I mean, I think I’m more excited than ever. I think NASA is doing a great job of hanging out contracts to some of these lower tier, you know, new, new companies. the legacy prime contractors aren’t liking that, but we’ll see what happens. So, I think you have regulatory support, you have government support. So you have public capital, you have regulation and law, and now private capital coming. So as long as the private capital stays there and we get past this valley of death, you’re going to have some great companies come about in the next five years.

Mo Islam
What are you, what do you look for in an investment?

Mason Angel
I can’t say the secret sauce. everyone knows that’s, that’s the IP. No, listen, founders who kind of come from one of these original, new space companies, you could call it. usually they have a thesis that they’ve been working on the side as a hobby. they’ve, they’ve kind of gotten to that first iteration of it. And so now they’re just trying to get hardware together. on top of that, you know, it’s Stokes space was a core investment of ours. It’s one of our largest for a reason because of the transformation it will have across the entire industry. I mean, right now, I think right shares at 6,500 for SpaceX. What if we have that at 2,000 or 200? Great questions, you know, but to be honest, Elon has no motivation to lower the price if there’s no pressure from competition. So yes, technology would be there, but is his business interests aligned with that? No.

Mo Islam
Right. Well, you mentioned Stoke, so let’s dive into some of these areas. So let’s talk launch for a second. So I already know the answer to this question, but obviously you don’t think SpaceX is going to be the only player. Why do you think there’s room for multiple winners?

Mason Angel
There’s different niches across the industry, rapid launch capability, different orbits, different requirements, hopefully one day we get into planetary. So different functions overall. And I think on top of that, you have geographical bounds, you have different nation states. So it’s very complex and dynamic capability. And then again, it is rocket science. So you have a lot of forces moving around. But I think launches is going to be one of those industries that SpaceX doesn’t have to take all it’s on. It’s not a monopoly. It doesn’t have to be at least in the future. So yeah, I think there’s room for maybe three or four. One of them being highly niche and specific and then a couple other all jockeying positions, but there’s going to be some commoditization of pricing and then that has to occur.

Mo Islam
Right. So what ultimately drove your investments in Stoke? And I know you’re also invested in a propulsion business or some major. So what drove your kind of thesis in those two companies and why those two companies?

Mason Angel
So Stoke was an early investment, as was a few others Voyager, actually was my first investment. So luckily draw there, it feels like, but you know, understanding that the one limiting factor or the one point in the critical chain is launch. And that’s just getting transportation at the most rudimentary level. So how do I invest in that? Who’s going to enable and unlock the features that these companies are trying to? So, it’s the biggest barrier that I saw. So we’ll see if we can fix it or solve it for that matter. Not fix it, solve it. Probably, you know, help reduce pricing and that being the solution to unlock the next phase of this space industrial revolution.

Mo Islam
Why Stoke over all the other launch companies out there? There’s obviously a number well-funded that actually you could argue are farther along from an execution perspective than Stoke.

Mason Angel
I would agree with that, Mo. I think, and you know, I’m going to disclose I’ve invested in most of them, I think. I’ve got small checks in SpaceX, Relativity, Earth Major. I mean, Stoke was my biggest by far for a reason, but I spread out some investments. I did a little bit of portfolio management. But you know, that was the first round of investments. So small checks, invested in a few, diligence a lot, and then I went home of Stoke and really that was the company that I believe is going to execute and really put that pricing power on SpaceX. But listen, I think, you know, competition is a tough turn to use because to your point there, there’s still a long way to go. SpaceX will always be that, you know, crowning jewel that people are striving to reach. So we’ll see.

Mo Islam
What impact do you think Starship is going to have on the economy and do you think that impact is understood?

Mason Angel
So I was listening to an old podcast with Casey Hanmer. I hope I pronounced that right. I had my headphones on the dentist chair and I was just pumping my fist. So excited. he made some great points and I think, you know, what it unlocks, for mass industry is amazing. I think for specific niches, I don’t believe once you have a constellation to build, you know, SpaceX, taking a, buy an entire starship for yourself is going to be difficult. It’s going to be years and years from now so I think it’s going to lock the infrastructure that we need to actually move on to planetary, development. And then, you know, for the low earth orbit star labs being launched on one, well that, that’s a huge industry risk. That’s never been done before. See if they are able to do it. I think they will. I’ve made my investment there. So, you know, that’s, that’s my belief. I don’t think it’s completely understood. I think, listen, SpaceX is best customers themselves they’re going to use it primarily for these big government contracts. And then also like lunar and on top of that for, for deploying Starlink. But yeah, I think eventually it’s going to be amazing. It’s going to be awesome. A hundred dollars per launch or per kilogram. Like who wouldn’t want that.

Mo Islam
Yeah, totally. So, you know, before we started recording, we were talking about the moon. Obviously, it’s a big topic of discussion. Last week, we had the lead of Firefly’s Blue Ghost lander program on the show. And just recently, China landed their fourth lunar lander on the moon. I mean, there’s just a it just feels like sort of an explosion of like news and activity. Multiple commercial companies trying to land or have already attempted or are trying to land. Why is there, why do you think there’s a massive increase in commercial activity on the moon? And are you thinking about companies that are focused on the moon as an investment?

Mason Angel
can’t say too much right now because I’m moving something. Yeah, I’m seeing emails. Things are being done behind us. But I think Lunar is I mean, we’re in the new space race. You can just look at the past one look at the expenditure, look at the budget, look at what was spent. Look at the victory a brought us in the end. I mean, and to be honest, this whole victorious defeat, I don’t like that notion because what came out of it was their national space station, we had camaraderie with Russia. So I think ultimately, Chinese will be some partner in space right now. We’re obviously in a race to the moon and colonize it. Everyone will phrase it. but you know, I I’m invested in it. I think it’s, I think it’s a future. my first dream I ever had was of helium three and the ability for new co-fusion, I think in seventh grade that was kind of brought to me by my, my science teacher or professor. so yeah, I mean, what a, what a dream that was. hopefully we can unlock that.

Mo Islam
So you’re an investor in Astroforge. So clearly there’s like some elements, you’ve done some work in mining and space research, or resource, excuse me, utilization, ISRU. So what drove that investment into Astroforge? Do you think asteroid mining, do you think the economics are now viable? A number of companies have tried, they have not been successful. So my guess is you think now is the right time.

Mason Angel
I mean, launch is low, better time than ever. So yeah, it’s your point. There’s a graveyard of companies that never succeeded, but they’ve set the kind of initial learning steps or they progress the technology to the point where some more sound technology can be implemented. But yeah, it’s a long shot. But if you think about this, my education is grounded in economics. Our primary limiting factor is resource constraint. So if I can eliminate that primary factor of resource constraint what’s the future look like? It seems limitless. So it, you know, financially, and then also from a moral perspective, it sounded like the right thing I had to do to unlock that, you know, and, and for the future of our own planet, hopefully we can use other resources, not our own.

Mo Islam
What what what is you mentioned helium-3 is one are there any other resources that you know that are worth mining outside. I know AstroForge I think is going after platinum if I’m not mistaken the platinum market

Mason Angel
Yep. Yep. I mean, listen, rare earth metals as a whole. But you’re talking about the economics of at that point. I mean, it doesn’t make you get copper from a mine down in South America. Why the heck would you go get on another planet? You know, the economics don’t work right now. But hopefully in the future to do. Yes, AstroForge is pursuing platinum based metals. They’re using a number of functions and also heavy machinery on earth. They’re very expensive right now. So again, the economics makes sense. But if we can continue to eliminate the cost to reach these asteroids and then the technology mature to actually extract resources, you know, 20 years from now, 15 years from now, that could be a viable industry that’s making billions of dollars.

Mo Islam
Right. So you mentioned Voyager earlier. That sounds like it was an early bet. So and you and I met on AX-1, I believe. It was Axiom’s first mission to the International Space Station. We got to watch that together in Florida. What is your perspective on space stations today? It’s been some time. There’s Axiom now who’s now, who’s done multiple missions to the International Space Station. There’s Voyager now with Starlab, of course, with their partnership with Airbus, you have VAST, who’s backed by crypto billionaire Jed and Caleb. There’s Orbital Reef with Sierra, which, I mean, you know, there’s a lot of rumors out there on how that’s going and sort of the partnership with Blue Origin. But what’s your kind of feeling right now on the space station market? Like, is this a is this a place where you would recommend investors kind of spend some time in right now or do you think the bets that have been made have been made and now it’s just now you just want to see how the cards fall?

Mason Angel
I mean, am I liable for any financial recommendations? What is this called? Listen, my dream and pursuit now, and this was kind of what I’ve been thinking about, and I’m happy to say it, I ideally would love to command a space station one day. I know that’s a 20-year journey for me, but I think the future of servicing, again, this is what Starship unlocks, huge infrastructure in space. Okay, well, how do we service that you need smaller rockets that are constantly launching on daily cadence providing, you know, resources, down that services, other capabilities. So yeah, I think it’s, it’s, it’s a time. It’s a good time. I mean, listen, there is obviously risk associated with it, but if you look at the cost of international space station and what some of these companies are proposing now, we’re talking orders of magnitude different. So let’s give it a shot. I mean, throw some budget at NASA. Let’s, let’s just let, let’s let it ride Congress. Come on. We got, we’ve got so far like, well, it’s two or three out there. Like that’s a huge feat for everyone. Also, I’m just going to say it out loud, I think some national pride’s in order here. I think a lot of countries want to, you know, flex on their neighbors that they’ve got a space station and humans in space.

Mo Islam
Yeah. Yeah, no, I don’t disagree with that. I think that the demand from nations who have fractional budgets, like space budgets, versus like a US, Russia or China, there’s a lot of things now that you can do with much, much smaller budgets, thanks to impart the commercial space industry. And you can’t underestimate the level of national pride that’s involved in getting an astronaut you’re a national astronaut up into space for the first time, getting an asset, national asset to space the first time, you know, the launching piece, a hard road to the moon. That’s definitely in and of itself going to be certainly going to be a market. So, yeah, no, I completely buy that. And, you know, one of the things I’ve noticed is, you know, just as an influence point, right. So China now is Tiangong, which is there the Eastern version of the space station, albeit it’s much smaller than the ISS, but it is newer and in certain ways has better capabilities.

But interestingly, China is now partnering with a number of other Western nations on that as customers, as partners. I mean, even if you look at this recent, the lunar lander missions that they’re doing to the moon, they’re partnering with like, various European nations on payload delivery. So clearly, despite what in the US we say about our perspective on China and technology transfer and IP sharing and all that stuff, it’s being done by other nations, at least as a customer of what they’re doing. So clearly the influence at the global stage is only increasing, especially when it comes to aerospace and defense. So it is definitely, it’s becoming more important than it ever has been before.

Mason Angel
Bring it on though. I mean, that’s what I say. Listen, as long as we don’t blow each other up and then I think a healthy space race brings about competition and, you know, rapid development of technology for better for worse. I mean, this is what happens as a result.

Mo Islam
So outside of some of the areas that we touched on, launch, the moon, space stations, any other areas that you’re thinking about looking at, now that you’ve launched yourself to space, like tourism, do you think space, how has your, actually why don’t we start there, how has your experience going to space affected your perspective on the business of going to space?

Mason Angel
That’s a great question. You know, someone at Blue Origin asked me that too. And I took a moment back, I go, wow, all the things I’ve considered and thought about, that was not one of them. It’s a good question. I mean, you know, listen, I think there is a customer base. I think people are willing to pay, there’s backlog. There’s still maturity that needs to go with, you know, capabilities. But I mean, the future, why not? Listen, I aspire to really use this opportunity to enhance education at the early stage. I mean, by that K through 10th grade, let’s call it. On top of that, let’s send more people into space. Let’s get a more global perspective. Let’s have some, you know, more, I think back in the day, Space Shield took some senators up there. Well, let’s send some congressmen. Let’s have people of different renown and, you know, parties just have a chill time and space together. Really? I mean, what’s the worst that could happen? They gain a new perspective.

Mo Islam
Yep. Yeah. No, I don’t doubt that there’s certain value in having a shared moment like that. I mean, like, there’s no question that there’s an emotional element. I mean, you know, I’ve been, you know, one of the things we’re building here at Payload is ignition, right? It’s our next brand around nuclear energy. So we’re spending a lot of time on history of the energy programs here in the United States, the history of the Manhattan Project, of course, is a big part of it. And sort of like how, you know, the arc of the Manhattan Project to the Cold War to, so is that?

Mason Angel
I said, Oakland, Tennessee, go check it out. There’s, I mean, listen, I was literally talking to the individual who runs GE’s nuclear energy department on Thursday last week. And I think nuclear is getting a new traction. I’m very happy with that. I think Congress and other legislation, you know, can enact new change in the industry that can be beneficial. And if you think about it in the future, AI is not going to be a net negative on our energy usage. It’s going to astronomically increase. So you need base load power, you need capabilities aside from nuclear and other polluting factors like, you know, I think, in addition wind. but you know, for all of the purposes, methane is the best utilization right now. So we can go on with tangent and not point to Mo.

Mo Islam
Right, right, right. Yeah, no, no, 100%. I think like the look, we, you know, like going back to your earlier point, like we have now the capability to vaporize the Earth, right, in a lot of ways. So I think the ability to experience sort of like, you know, I know people talk about this a lot once they come back from space, but like understanding the fragility of Earth is an experience that I think could really shape I mean, they could change politics one day, you know, like the sort of viewpoint around, yeah, like, you know, what we have is very, very, very lucky. So anyway, without getting all emotional.

Mason Angel
Last point on that Mo though, for like, you’re talking about like actual commercial applications, you know, the bio-pharmacal industry, I don’t know about you, but I think you’re with me at Crew Mission 5. They’re printing in an aorta in space, like the stem cells, 3D printing. So I mean, if you can build and replace organs and have your DNA injected into that organ as it’s being created, I think there’s huge application in the future. Now it’s still in the early innings, but the fact that NASA is doing this, like, is, it’s kind of sounds like science fiction, but it’s a reality today.

Mo Islam
Yep, yep, 100%. So with that being said, what are sort of areas of the market that you feel are overhyped or underhyped? Like markets are like, hey, or areas where like, hey, too much capital has gone into the space, I have no interest in it. And then maybe like, hey, not enough people are paying attention. Like this is where I want to spend my time.

Mason Angel
You know, I got to say launch for after that, but I, it’s, it’s, it, I can’t because hello. I just let a launch companies around. I think, I think that market super sad at this point. I think just the various entry or so high with the capital and your requirements, you’re not going to see many new launch companies, after the, these huge innings have been occurred. So I think maybe Stoke was the last of that. again, might have little buys in there. But I think as far as the future, I think lunar applications are there, you know, point to point cargo, really excited about that. Autonomous robotics capabilities, people are focused more on the AI software, but you know, let’s actually implement this into our hardware so that we can have more time to ourselves. I mean, some of these remedial tasks, let’s start eliminating them. Let’s make our lives more fulfilling. So yeah, there’s a couple others I could go on. I think I’ll try not to.

Mo Islam
Is there any technology that you don’t see today that you think will develop over the next 10 years or any type of capability?

Mason Angel
All right. Here’s a crazy thought. I’ve got a few. Okay. But I think, listen, if we can at least get nuclear fusion net, I think we’re getting there net net neutral. Then I think then we can start the clock on okay, we’re going to start using as a viable energy source. So maybe we’ll be in the early evenings there. I’m excited about that. Point to point cargo. I mean, let’s expand your cargo. Let’s say you want to fly to Australia 40 minutes from JFK, you know, different spaceports, strategically located around the US and the world. Like this is the next evolution of transportation. That’s exciting. Let’s see what we can build with it. And, and, you know, it’s crazy thought, but like all this point in IoT servicing capabilities, like autonomy is here. I don’t, I, people know Tesla’s and they’re doing a lot of the function and it’s pretty smart code. It’s doing it on the fly, but we’re talking all cars autonomous all the time. Like health wise, you’re reducing risk of actual deaths, car accidents on top of that you get your time back in the morning and you know it’s a great future that I see so.

Mo Islam
Right, right. No, no, I agree with all of that and, you know.

Mason Angel
And that’s right, that’s what require PNT services. So you need large satellite constellations. Let’s get there in the final ending’s mode, but like that’s the future. Large constellations, prying services for Earth, outside of just having a cell phone that’s always on.

Mo Islam
Yeah, do you think, what are your predictions on when Starship will be ready to take on customers? And I ask that question more so because you mentioned point to point cargo transport or people transport. There is clearly a growing, and I know SpaceX has not given a lot of detail around their plan around this, but there is a lot of chatter about the way that SpaceX becomes a much bigger business than it is today is less so on traveling to Mars, which I know a lot of investors are having a hard time understanding what the economic value of that is. And I think there’s various arguments to be made there. But the near term sort of like, OK, well, getting from like New York to Tokyo, right, in under an hour or two is actually where the market is. So how far away do you think? Starship is from, let’s just say, sending the first payload up into space.

Mason Angel
First ride share payload.

Mo Islam
sure. Yeah, let’s call it. Yeah, ride share payload

Mason Angel
Okay. 2031.

Mo Islam
2031? First ride share payload. That seems like a contrarian view. Why do you think it’s gonna take so long?

Mason Angel
That’s not the mission.

Mo Islam
Interesting.

Mason Angel
Elon, listen, Elon dictates the mission as does everyone else. The mission is not to start deploying rideshare for everyone else. The mission is to advance interplanetary travel and also deploy Starlink to fund that interplanetary travel. I mean, I love Elon, love the guy. I think he’s a great factor. I love what SpaceX has built. It’s the reason why we’re able to have this conversation today, Mo. We wouldn’t be having this conversation if SpaceX was never invented. So Falcon 9, we can have a conversation there. What are they going to be for? That’s a great conversation. I don’t know, but I think, listen, Stokespace is going to be a great, if Rocket Lab, if they can get up and you know, Firefly’s building their own MLV right now. So this next year is going to be very exciting. I’ll put it that way. And as far as Stokespace, I’ll leave it at this. Expect some hot fire imminent testing to come across on the slow threads. So keep an eye out this.

Mo Islam
There you go. So I do want to talk, I want to flip sort of the perspective for a second and talk about sort of the LP, right, in fund relationships, right? So what are, and for those who aren’t aware, LPs or limited partners are the investors that are in in venture funds, right? Just the sort of the general partner, limited partner, legal structure. LPs are the investors. So, and Mason, you’re an emerging manager, right? You’ve been doing this for not a super long time, but you’re relatively new from a fund perspective, you’re firm at least. So what are…

Mason Angel
I got some bruises, got some cuts and scratches, yeah.

Mo Islam
Yeah, what are LPs looking for from GPs today? Like how should emerging managers, maybe an emerging manager listening to this episode, like how should they position themselves in what is arguably one of the most difficult fundraising environments in the last like 10 plus years?

Mason Angel
I mean, listen, you have to be efficient. I don’t think you need a niche. Do not go out there trying to expect a $75 million fund right off the bat. Unless you have been doing this for a while, like you should be aiming for low $5, $10 million fund, build a special niche, whether it’s steel flow channel, whether it’s technological expertise you might have, relationships, whatever it is, just demonstrate you’re able to have that. I think, you know, have some angel investments under your belt, have some winners. That always helps. It takes time. I mean, that’s the end of it. But I think LPs are looking for, listen, they’re looking for habitual execution, which is just fricking hard when you’re talking at a whole period of 10 years. So I think it’s going to be hard to do that if you’re a first time founder. So again, have that edge. That’s the best advice I can give. And you know, well, hopefully industrious in the future. I’m not going to say hopefully, I know industrious in the future will be taking some outside capital. So when that time comes, I want to have a track record that I’m proud of.

Mo Islam
Yeah, totally. If you weren’t doing this, what else would you be doing?

Mason Angel
I’m kind of doing already, Mo. I’m really happy. I’m taking some part-time classes at Colorado School of Mines. I want to get my doctorate in space resources. I want to be able to earn a seat in the room. Listen, I’m an investor because I love this industry. If I was a janitor and that’s what I had to do, I would do that too. Just being in the room with people is really, it’s the attraction. It’s the excitement, it’s the purpose. It’s knowing that these tons, think about this. I was talking to the people at New Shepard, I was like, how many man hours did you guys put into this? And they did the math and I won’t say it, but you know, you have thousands of people working, possibly millions of hours to build a rocket that can do this magnificent thing. That’s poetic.

Mo Islam
Yeah, yeah. So, yeah, no, I think it’s funny. I ask that question a lot and most people always say, I can’t imagine effectively some iteration of I can’t imagine doing anything else. So I totally get it. Well, look, you know, it was awesome to have you. Amazing to hear about your experience with Blue. Like, what a treat. Like, I think, you know, we don’t get a lot of people who just went to space on the show, so we appreciate you sharing your experience and hopefully you make it back up there soon and we can have you back.

Mason Angel
Hey Mo, I’m just gonna say you need to get a podcast room, some sponsors, like you guys, I’m gonna use the, I’m gonna use some reference for some, something that people might not like, but Joe Rogan, you know, the 101 kind of throw, you should be throwing up rocket launches in the corner, just being like, yeah, right here at this moment, we knew something was, anomaly was occurring, you know? That’d be awesome, viewers would love that, but.

Mo Islam
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah, totally. No, that’s great. That’s great. And I appreciate that. No, there’s a lot we have in store on the podcast front. We’ve been definitely slower to come out with some of those fun changes, but we have a bunch in store that we’re excited about that we’ll be rolling out later this year. So stay tuned.

Mason Angel
awesome. Thanks for having me man.

Mo Islam
Awesome. Thanks, Mason.

Related Stories
Pathfinder

An Interview with Ian Cinnamon

Ian Cinnamon joint Payload to talk about his journey from concept to scaling production, the Series B funding round and its implications, and Apex’s mission to become the leading supplier of satellite buses.

Pathfinder

An Interview with Pierre Lionnet

Eurospace’s Pierre Lionnet joint Pathfinder to talk about the space economy and the industry’s current dynamics.

Pathfinder

An Interview with Mike Palank

MaC’s Mike Palank joined Pathfinder to talk about identifying talent and investing in innovative startups.

Pathfinder

An Interview with Ray Allensworth

Firefly’s Ray Allensworth joined Payload to talk about the comprehensive capabilities of Firefly as an end-to-end space transportation company, the intricacies of the Blue Ghost program, and the significance of lunar exploration.