The Future of Aerospace is Here And Sunstone is Flying

Welcome back to The Sunstone Way.

Remember those flying cars in The Jetsons?  Well, if you were at the Long Beach Festival of Flight last week, you may have been one of the lucky people to see the first air taxi (with real people instead of the cartoon characters), flying around the airfield.  Yes!  Fully electric, fully automated, flying cars are now here and Sunstone is super excited about the impacts this new technology will have on the economy, the environment, and society.

Public-Private-Education Partnership Powers Innovation

I often liken Sunstone to an airplane taxiing down the runway, ready to soar. So it was particularly fun for me to join Long Beach leaders last week to celebrate Festival of Flight at The Modern, an event space overlooking the runway at the Long Beach Airport, where I got to meet the public, private, and education leaders who are shaping the future of aerospace and through that, our economy.

This intimate gathering was put together to celebrate Wisk, an autonomous flying taxi being built by a venture capital-backed startup* subsidiary of The Boeing Company. Wisk Aero was a technology startup developing an all-electric, autonomous Vertical Take-off and Landing (eVTOL) aircraft when Boeing invested, then acquired the company right here in Long Beach.

But getting an autonomous flying object into the air safely and legally is no easy task. That’s why I helped to form the Advanced Air Mobility task force — including airport officials from the FAA, university, city government leaders, and the non-profit Long Beach Economic Partnership (LBEP) — when I was still the Economic Development Director for the City of Long Beach. This new industry taking flight is now a huge part of the aircraft/aerospace future of Long Beach.

State Senator Ben Allen and Mayor Rex Richardson in the Wisk eVOL

A History of Aerospace Innovation

At the special invite-only event, I had the opportunity to talk with Long Beach Mayor Rex Richardson about the juxtaposition between the technology-powered future of aerospace unfolding in our city and the airport’s 100th anniversary, which takes place next month. Did you know that Long Beach was the first municipal airport in California when it opened in 1923?

Long Beach is leading Southern California in the aerospace industry with creation of Space Beach – a hub of engineering offices and manufacturing facilities at and near the Long Beach Airport for cutting-edge companies including Rocket Lab, JetZero, Relativity Space, and more. Wisk has brought the technology back to the near-ground, so to speak, with a hybrid flying car-type vehicle a la The Jetsons.

Flight innovation has been part of the city since the days of fabric-covered biplanes.  If you aren’t aware of this aviation history, here are a few fun facts:

  • The seven miles of sand that make up our “long beach” was the perfect spot to land experimental flying machines.
  • The first-ever U.S. transcontinental flight ended in Long Beach, and Charles Lindbergh landed the Spirit of St. Louis on the beach years before his emergency night landing on the first lighted runway in the country – in Long Beach.
  • Long Beach was key to the war effort in World War II, both as a Naval base and as the home of Douglas Aircraft, where hundreds of Rosie the Riveters built war planes.
  • Boeing, which eventually purchased McDonnell Douglas Aircraft, continuing to build the C-17 and maintaining offices here, was famous for its B-17 bomber and other military planes.

Into The Future

There was lots of buzz at the luncheon Saturday about what aerospace in Long Beach is going to do for the economy, the environment, and for society.  Electric aircraft can reduce noise and eliminate air pollution.  Automated aircraft can also reduce collisions and traffic on the ground.  Advanced air mobility can also help the local economy.  During the airplane manufacturing heyday, it meant tens thousands of good design, engineering, and manufacturing jobs – and that’s exactly what the innovative next generation of aerospace is bringing as well.

Aerospace in all its iterations — from Wisk’s air taxi to JetZero’s satellite launch capabilities – is a big segment of Grow Long Beach, the Launch Beach 100 Startups campaign, and the Long Beach Venture Fund that will provide the resources needed by the talented technology entrepreneurs that are designing the future of airborne transportation.

Brian Yutco, the CEO at Wisk, is excited about the future. The many new high-tech startups connected to the aerospace industry that we will help support will be excited too. And they all will bring new jobs that have never existed before to operate the automated air taxis that will ‘wisk’ people across the region without impacting traffic on the ground.  

Taking Off

We’re proud to be part of Long Beach’s future, in aerospace and all the other industry sectors. I was pleased to help celebrate both the airport’s 100th anniversary and its promise for the future.

Two things are key to successful economic development – timing and contacts. Both are in place now, for Sunstone, and for Long Beach. Come on board. It’s time to take off!

That’s The Sunstone Way. And as always, be a Sunstone!

John Keisler

CEO & Managing Partner

Sunstone Management, Inc.

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*This is not a Sunstone Management-affiliated VC venture.

Note: This blog post is for information purposes only and is not intended as an offer to sell securities or the solicitation of an offer to buy securities. Such offers are made solely pursuant to formal offering and subscription documentation in an investment fund (“Fund”).

Interests in private funds such as the Long Beach Venture Fund are offered pursuant to an exemption from registration with the SEC and are therefore high-risk, illiquid investments. Those considering such investments should be able to afford losing some or all their money. For more information about the Long Beach Venture Fund, including a summary of risks, please request a Private Placement Memorandum from Sunstone Management, Inc.

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., 2023

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