Lior Herman personifies an optimistic technology advocate. He has spent years working in start-ups across the tech spectrum, from cloud computing to analytics with a stint at Facebook too.
But now Mr Herman is turning his attention to a new frontier: space. “We are at the historical crossroads,” he tells fDi. “After 70 years of developing the aerospace industry, we have finally reached this technological tipping point.”
Together with his founding team — Einat Berkovich, Yaron Sagi and Udi Danhirsh — Mr Herman is raising a $110m venture capital fund, Type5, to invest in space technology start-ups. Their hunch is that the current regulatory environment, helped by cheaper computing power, is ripe for discoveries of new propulsion, communication and networking technologies.
Mr Herman likens the space industry today to the early internet, where a platform set up in the 1990s led to a market of applications from search engines to social media. “We can finally start to commercialise space in a private way,” he claims, pointing to pioneering companies such as Elon Musk’s rocket company SpaceX creating a platform on which other aerospace start-ups can build.
The Type5 ‘new space’ fund, named after Soviet astronomer Nikolai Kardashev’s scale of civilisation's advancement through energy usage, views “space tech as a whole industry”. Mr Herman says the fund will focus on five verticals: quantum computing for new networks; power sourcing for space manufacturing; next-generation medical devices; space IT infrastructure; and robotics.
“Medical and energy advancements for the new space economy are exciting because they will literally change how we live,” explains Mr Herman, who points to the potential of fully remote and autonomous healthcare systems to help us live healthier and longer lives.
“The core of Type5 is a dual-usage strategy, looking at companies that have both implications on Earth and space today,” he adds. Start-ups Mr Herman is already looking at include one that has developed a new oxygen reactor and another developing radiation-protective equipment that could be used in both space and nuclear facilities on Earth.
Dreams of a Middle East space hub
While Mr Herman is convinced that space presents a huge opportunity for innovation and job creation, he contends that his peers in Israel need some convincing. “I see how the Israeli high-tech ecosystem is naturally afraid of space, seeing it as something very far out, expensive and worth avoiding,” he says.
But he believes that Israel’s start-up ecosystem has “matured enough to start tackling bigger problems”, especially those presented by the inhospitable environment found in space.
“Those roots from the ‘start-up nation’ can start looking at those problems in a similar efficiency. If we begin to solve them for the benefit of big platform distributors like SpaceX, BlueOrigin and governments, these start-ups could become ‘unicorns’ in the process of solving those problems,” explains Mr Herman.
Across the Middle East, Mr Herman hopes there will be more collaboration between countries in the new space economy, especially following the recent peace agreement signed between Israel and the UAE.
“We need to look at the Middle East as an industrial zone that can benefit from each nation’s land availability, technology, security and economic capabilities,” he adds. As the new space frontier continues to develop, Mr Herman is in the process of creating a global ecosystem of cities making advancements in space technology.
“We should look at the space industry with open arms. I think it will generate a brighter future for humanity,” he concludes.
This article first appeared in the June/July print edition of fDi Intelligence. View a digital edition of the magazine here.