China NewSpace No. 10: Follow the Money (Part 2): I'm lovin' it

Welcome back to China NewSpace, your weekly dose of the Chinese private space industry. If you haven’t subscribed yet, sign up here.

This week: Baidu and McDonalds show some love for China’s official space program and I’ve got the names of the investment funds I promised you last week.


Diversion

Apropos of it’s fun, check out these McDonald’s posters made in partnership with the Chinese lunar program to get kids interested in space (and thanks to Andrew Jones at SpaceNews for pointing them out on Twitter):


Translation

Ok back to serious business. Here is the completed chart that I started on last week, including the names of the investors this time:

For funds whose English name is uncertain, I have put their names in grey to indicate the lower degree of certainty.

What is most interesting to me are the firms that are invested in both rocket and satellite companies. FounDream was an angel investor for both rocket maker LandSpace and satellite firm MinoSpace, as well as investing in LandSpace’s B round of funding. The Chinese branch of US private equity firm Matrix Partners is invested in both satellite firm Spacety and rocket maker iSpace. And Essential Capital was an angel investor for MinoSpace and rocket maker Galactic Energy.


Names

So, on the topic of names, I’d like lay out my approach, because it might help you in your own research.

As I’ve mentioned before, the English versions of Chinese company names can be trickier than you’d think. I have tried, as far as possible, to give the English names of firms that the firms themselves use. That’s usually pretty straightforward; you google the Chinese name of the company, find their website, and hopefully they have an English name as part of their logo or sometimes it will be in the URL of the site or the email address given as contact info.

One problem comes when there isn’t a website. The next best source is Qichacha (qcc.com), sort of the Chinese version of Crunchbase, followed by Crunchbase.

If those sources fail you, two tricks that you can try — first, Google Translate is actually a pretty good resource in terms of finding brand names, but it’s far from perfect. Second, do a google image search. Some companies that don’t have their own websites will still have logos that will have been published on other sites, or the CEO might have given a talk somewhere in front of a background that includes a company logo.

When there is simply no public information available, my approach is a bit more art than science in choosing whether to translate the meaning or transliterate the sounds, but I have followed the rule of thumb that if the word is a proper noun of some kind then I find out what that is and give the English translation, and if it’s not then I give a transliteration in Pinyin.


Interesting Link

The above info is obviously only a slice of the market, so here’s a link that I think will put it in context.

The Northern Virginia based Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA) published a report titled Evaluation of China's Commercial Space Sector about a year ago. It’s got a lot of great info in there, and very worth the read if you have the time. I’ll quote a bit from the financing section:

Space Angels, a U.S. VC firm that invests in the space industry and tracks global space investments, has estimated that total Chinese investment in commercial space was $336 million in 2018 (Space Angels 2019). The Future Aerospace Research Institute found Chinese space companies raised 2.1 billion RMB (approximately $310 million) in investments during 2018 across 34 rounds from seed to Series C capital for non-listed companies (Future Aerospace Research Institute 2019a). Future Aerospace notes that two older space companies listed on Chinese stock exchanges sought further funding, raising another 1.4 billion RMB (approximately $206 million) together, resulting in over $500 million raised in 2018.

The numbers have grown over the years. In 2017, Space Angels reported that Chinese space companies raised $230 million (Sheetz 2018), whereas the Aerospace Engineering Technology Research Institute (2018) found that the Chinese commercial space sector raised 2.1 billion RMB (approximately $310 million) for 17 space companies in 2017.

In particular, I liked this chart they produced which shows the range of estimates:


News Roundup

July 3: Beijing Space Link (not to be confused with Linkspace) received a radio operator license from MIIT for its 11th ground station (link in Chinese), which is in the province of Inner Mongolia. The company also has ground stations in Ningbo and Xinjiang, and outside of China in Laos, among other places.

July 6: The Shandong Industrial Technology Research Institute announced that it is building a constellation called Qilu (link in Chinese)

July 6: Baidu and the Chinese Mars mission signed a cooperation agreement (link in Chinese)


Until next time

My name is Cory Fitz and I write the China NewSpace newsletter. To make you smarter about China’s rapidly evolving private space industry, China NewSpace brings you translations of Chinese-language articles, as well as a roundup of links and news.

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact me at chinanewspace@gmail.com

You can also find me on Twitter at @cory_fitz