Space and Defense Private Equity, with Kirk Konert (AEI)


There’s no better time to be at a private equity firm investing in the space industry. At least that’s what Kirk Konert from AE Industrial Partners (AEI) believes. PE activity in aerospace and defense reached a record high in 2022 and early indications point to another breakout year in 2023. Several compounding factors, including higher liquidity needs among public space companies, broader macro uncertainty, and a significantly more complex fundraising environment are providing the perfect environment for dealmaking.


Today, the Pathfinder podcast brings you a conversation with Kirk Konert, a partner at AE Industrial Partners (AEI) focusing primarily on space and defense. Kirk joined AEI in 2014 just as the firm was institutionalizing and scaling its investment offering. Before AEI, Kirk worked at Sun Capital Partners, a private equity firm specializing in leveraged buyouts, and at Wells Fargo’s Industrials Group.

AE Industrial Partners is a FL-based PE firm that focuses on aerospace, defense and government services. It launched its first fund in 2014 and has since grown to over $5.5B of assets under management (AUM).

Kirk joins us on the show today to discuss:

  • The history of AEI and the evolution of its strategy
  • Why private equity is a compelling tool in this market
  • What AEI looks for in an investment
  • Portfolio company synergies
  • Fundraising predictions for the industry
  • And much more…

Today’s episode is brought to you by SpiderOak, a US-based software company that builds space cybersecurity products and solutions for civilian, military, and commercial space operations. Learn more at 

• Chapters •

00:00 An introduction to Kirk and private equity

03:22 History of AE and its evolution/strategy

05:47 Kirk’s career arc through joining AE

09:41 AE’s different investment strategies and how they interrelate

13:20 Categorizing the space industry as an investment

15:52 What do you look for in an investment?

26:13 What drives success and failure of management teams

29:56 SpiderOak Ad Break

30:47 Fundraising prediction for the aerospace industry

34:22 How does a founder with 12 months of runway navigate the market?

35:59 Predicting when the market for IPOs will recover

41:52 Geopolitical tailwinds for space companies

45:16 Advice for a new investor looking to generate the most alpha

47:38 What drive’s AE’s success?

49:48 Starship prediction?