Long Beach’s Space Beach Expansion Helps Lead Way To The Final Frontier 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 20230907-Sunstone-Way-banner-NEW-2-1024x576.png

Welcome back to The Sunstone Way. 

When the Queen Mary was launched 90 years ago, there were barely laws governing the Atlantic Ocean where the grand lady would sail and serve. Last week, the historic ship was the site for a two-day symposium on the laws that should govern space, the moon and beyond. 

It was the Space Beach Law Lab, and it attracted law and space experts from across the country. It also attracted leaders of the many space-related companies located in Long Beach, companies that have prompted the moniker Space Beach.  Somehow, these brilliant people combined two of my favorite things—the Queen Mary and Space Beach!  

We were represented as well, with a presentation by Rich Jun, our chief strategy officer and leader of venture capital for Sunstone. 

A Historic Time 

It was perfect timing for the symposium. The week before, the United States landed on the Moon for the first time in more than 50 years, when the Odysseus touched down near the Malapert A crater close to the Moon’s south pole. It wasn’t perfect – the lander toppled onto its side – but it sent signals back to Earth. 

Maybe most importantly, the trip to the Moon was accomplished by a private firm, Intuitive Machines, Inc., launched on a (private) Space X rocket, and paid for by NASA – a public-private partnership of epic proportions. Fun fact – the co-founder of Intuitive Machines, Inc., and a number of other high-tech companies, Kamal Ghaffarian, is a first-generation immigrant from Iran who made his fortune working with government agencies as a strong believer in the public-private approach to innovation. 

If it sounds a lot like our founder John Shen’s story, and the unique mission of Sunstone to grow the economy through public-private partnerships, that’s because it is. 

Riding The Future 

My generation grew up dreaming of space and its infinite possibilities. When I was a youngster, the first “Star Wars” movie came out, capturing a generation’s imagination. 

But by the time I was paying attention, that brief period of men landing on the moon – July 1969 to December 1972 – was long gone. President John F. Kennedy had inspired the national effort with a September 1962 speech challenging the country to go to the moon before 1970. That came in the face of the Soviet Union putting the first man in space the year before. 

It was a real American Dream – one that came true because of a call to action — backed by unprecedented venture capital investment by the federal government. 

How Space Beach Began 

Long Beach long has had a history of resilience, recreating itself in the face of setbacks – a look at today’s downtown waterfront after the Navy’s departure provides a perfect example.  An area that helped win the war in the Pacific is now the busiest port complex in the nation and handling over 40 percent of the international goods movement into our country. 

Similarly, when Boeing shut down the C-17 production line near the Long Beach Airport in 2015, it appeared to be the end of a 75-year legacy of aerospace manufacturing in the city. But Long Beach leaders declined to throw in the towel, and started looking for a better way.  Working with public and private sector partners to transition this important real estate asset around the airport was one of my first tasks as the new Economic Development director for the City. 

Timing was right – the private space industry was gaining traction as the federal government decided it was more cost-effective to contract out satellite launches and more—and Long Beach had both the talented workforce and recently rezoned facilities around the airfield to support its growth. To be clear, there always had been a public-private component to the aerospace industry – the government was the primary customer for the C-17, for example. 

I had the good fortune to be part of the Space Beach push as the city’s new Economic Development director. We were able to attract and anchor some of the biggest names, along with some of the most promising startups, in the aerospace industry. Today, well-known companies including Rocket Lab, JetZero, Spin Launch and Vast Space call Long Beach home. 

Just last week, Long Beach hosted a Space Beach job fair for recently laid-off workers from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena and others. Hi-tech jobs were on the table from multiple aerospace companies and Long Beach leaders were smart to welcome them with open arms — further strengthening our international advantage as the new center for the commercial space startup industry. 

And there’s still room for entrepreneurs to become part of Space Beach, either serving area tech companies or launching (pun intended) their own endeavors. 

Public-private partnerships putting people to work, innovating to enrich the community, is a reality at Space Beach. That’s The Sunstone Way. 

And as always, be a Sunstone! 

John Keisler 

CEO & Managing Partner 

Sunstone Management, Inc. 

Tell your friends and colleagues about The Sunstone Way and the insights it provides. To receive a copy each week, sign up at the link. 

Have a comment about this topic, or want to suggest topics for future blogs? Click here. 

More About Sunstone Management 
Sunstone Management is a diversified private capital sponsor firm headquartered in Southern California that invests in diverse early-stage technology entrepreneurs who seek to build great companies. We believe in the aspirational power of the American economy to attract and inspire investors and entrepreneurs from throughout the world. We deliver new and exciting opportunities for economic growth through the creation of innovative public-private partnerships, and our unique experience across government, education, and private sectors. Identified by Financial Times as one of America’s Fastest Growing Companies three years in a row. In the second quarter of 2023, PitchBook ranked Sunstone the seventh most active early-stage venture capital firm in the country, and 18th overall.  

© Sunstone Management Inc., 2024 

News and Press Release

Startup Resources

We are passionate about supporting tech entrepreneurs like you by presenting an array of resources. Each resource is capable of assisting with the various stages of you venture, please review and explore the relevant programs that best suits your situation.

Sunstone Community Fund

The Sunstone Community Fund is committed to catalyzing partnerships that create economic opportunities for startup founders and communities throughout the United States. That’s just one of the reasons why we choose to give back to the community.