Life business and rockets.
I'm really proud of what Unreasonable rocket accomplished in pursuit of the LLC contest. I think we effectively showed the world that unreasonable people can accomplish. more than expected. At the same time the LLC and its end has been personally really hard. I've never worked that hard on a project in my life, I gave it everything I had, and got really close. Over and over my wife asked me if I was going to be ok if we failed. I always said yes I'd shown the world what could be done and I'd be ok. Keeping that promise has been a lot harder than I expected. Failing took a lot out of me.
The bright hard goal of a hard task to accomplish is very seductive.
So I failed at the LLC and this removes a nice bright hard goal, and replaces it with my business as CTO of NetBurner. 13 years ago my business partner Tom and I started Netburner. If I look back on the my career the times I've been most happy have been when I'm learning something new and accomplishing something really hard. Starting NetBurner and writing a robust embedded network ecosystem from scratch was all of these things, lots to learn, hard, a task worth putting 100% into. From a personal financial and business sense NetBurner has been a success, but at the same time from a personal technical challenge the code base is now mature and I spend at least 80% of my time messing with hardware and code that I created 5 or more years ago. From a personal sanity standpoint I need to do something different.
As I've stated here and elsewhere helping humanity reduce the cost of accessing all of the solar systems resources is probably the most important task that a human can attempt. I'd like to contribute to that effort. Clearly any effort in this direction has to be commercial, if it can't create value and a profitable business, it won't be self sustaining. How best to contribute to that?
I could go work for an existing organization, but I'm not sure how well the transition from leader/owner to employee would go.
I could liquidate all my assets and bet the farm on starting a NanoSat launcher business in an unreasonable fashion. Based on projections this would be grossly under capitalized and even if I acomplish this its not clear that having an organization where the value lives in the head of the one old wizard really creates value. ( At some level I've already a got a business that looks a lot like this )
I could write a business plan to create a larger organization where the value is in the organization and systems created and and go out on the begging for investors road trip. I've personally seen some very smart people fail at this. I've also seen some really creative people be consumed by the continuous process of finding the next funding round. Business schmooze is not my thing and unless the process can be setup with enough resources to succeed upfront I'm hesitant. Business have natural size scaling issues. Some where between 5M and 20M there is a discontinuity where things like HR and overall business management come into being and
trying to learn the 20M business organization game at the same time as trying to do a really hard technical problem seem personally daunting.
I could do some hybrid like working 1/2 time at NetBurner and liquidate some assets to build an all volunteer space business in San Diego (The Armadillo model) Unreasonable rocket has generated a lot of interest but the number of people that would show up once or twice a week on a regular basis for years seems to be vanishingly small.
I could say I'm done playing the rat race game, buy a Chris White Atlantic 48 and sail off into the sunset. (At one time this was a personal goal, my wife thinks I would be bored out of my mind.)
There are a million complicating issues:
The vast majority of the current U.S. space revenue comes from the government in one form or another. The U.S. government is broke and the recent NASA budget proposal is only the beginning. If the politicians get serious about getting the budget under control then all discretionary spending has to go to zero. NASA and non-military space is the poster child for discretionary. If the politicians don't get the the budget under control we are headed to a fiat monitary collapse or hyperinflation. In either case the current discretionary space funding goes to zero. One might even see this as an opportunity if could become the lowest cost launch provider by an order of mangnitude.
My son, who was a key part of the Unreasonable Rocket effort, is rightfully starting his own business and his own life. I doubt I will ever find someone that is as personally easy to work with. As my wife says don't play pictionary against thoose two they have some sort of personal telepathy.
I turn 49 in September, I have a lot of experience wisdom and gray hair, I can see that the brute force problem solving CPU is not what it was when I was 25. Can I find a way to harness the experience and hard earned wisdom without being the one primary CPU?
What is my personal responsibility to existing stakeholders in my life? Is it fair to sell the house and live with in an industrial space with my wife?. (She says she's fine with that, I'm not sure I am) What do I owe to the existing NetBurner stakeholders? A lot of independant consultants
base their lively hood on our eco system. I need to leave enough assets there to make sure NetBurner continues as a strong viable business while at the same time its my primary asset .
Lots to think about.