Lisa Rich is a successful investor, strategist, communicator and operator. She is founder and Managing Partner of Hemisphere Ventures, an early stage venture capital firm focused on frontier tech: synthetic biology, robotics, drones and space. Hemisphere has invested in more than 200 U.S. companies since 2014; Hemisphere’s portfolio has 18 space companies, including: Axiom Space (the world’s first commercial space station); Umbra (high resolution space-based imagery; PlanetIQ (high definition weather forecasting) and Made In Space (in-space manufacturing), recently acquired by Redwire.

Ms. Rich is also founder and Chief Operating Officer of Xplore, a commercial space exploration company focused on missons to Earth orbit and beyond, including destinations to the Moon, Mars, Venus, LaGrange points and near-Earth asteroids. She is dedicated to advancing commercialization for the space industry via legislative affairs and has presented at the U.S. State Department, NewSpace, The Center for Space Commerce and Finance, TechStars, Project Geospatial, and internationally. A member of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation and Space Enterprise Consortium, Lisa is also a supporter of the Planetary Society, B612 and The Keck Foundation. She holds a B.S. in English from Loyola University Chicago, and master’s degree from the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago.


What is your background, where did you grow up?

I’m originally a Midwesterner, now living on the West Coast near Seattle. I’ve been told I have a distinctive accent and my Chicago roots are quite the giveaway!


When did you first become interested in space?

We’ve all heard that “Space is Hard” and perhaps that’s why I am drawn to it. I’ve always been attracted to complex problems and technologies – I like to know what makes things work not necessarily to become an expert in those details but rather, to understand the importance of a new capability and how it fits into the bigger picture.

I’m nature photographer who has always been captivated by astrophotography and I appreciate great imagery. A few years ago, I stepped inside of Blue Origin’s New Shepherd capsule and my heart raced! – I had this Eureka moment of wanting to experience space for myself.


What do you think the biggest issue facing the industry today?

International competition is an issue deserving more attention on the policy side. China provides tremendous support for early stage space companies, and their startup ecosystem is thriving. The European government provides a broad range of support – and funding for their space companies. We need to see the U.S. Government reaching out in similar ways. We have seen the New Zealand government, for example, extend its reach to help specific space companies raise funds, Europe offering matching funding for venture firms that back companies based in the Europe…. It would be incredible to have similar vehicles in the U.S. if there was fair way to fund deserving companies.

The goal is not to encourage more government subsidies for the commercial space industry, but instead to enable a solid stream of commercial contracts – and find new ways to commercialize. AFWERX is on a great path to encourage innovation and support commercialization – I look forward to seeing this program expanded and replicated in other areas of our government.


What do you like to do for fun?

As a child I memorized the botanical names of all kinds of plants and later became a certified Master Gardener, so I have a green thumb. I’m especially interested in hydroponics and currently working on a bumper crop of herbs and cherry tomatoes. Mushrooms are a big area in the synthetic biology world and have loads of medicinal benefits, so I’m also trying my hand at growing my own Lion’s Mane.


What is your favorite movie and why?

Ballroom Dancing. A creative and talented dancer with a distinctively unique dance style – had new steps he wanted to perform in a traditional ballroom dance competition whose leadership strongly opposed innovation of any kind. While the dancer knew and appreciated the classic steps – he was driven in his desire to break free of that mold. In the end he and his partner choose to be bold, brave, risk total failure and fight the status quo to introduce new steps at the competition – and they win.

This mindset mirrors my own. As an innovator, strategist and founder I most appreciate operators with groundbreaking ideas who push boundaries and will stop at nothing to execute on their vision.

What are some of your favorite books?

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s Finding Flow, Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point and Outliers, are some favorites.

What are you reading now?

Jane Metcalfe and Brian Bergstein’s Neo.Life: 25 Visions for the Future of our Species – about how revolutionary biotechnologies will alter the future of our human experience. Liza Mundy’s Code Girls – about the American women code breakers of WWII…Also, Alan Stern, who is an Advisor to my commercial space company Xplore, has incredible space stories to share. I am re-reading the book he wrote David Grinspoon: Chasing New Horizons: Inside The Epic First Mission To Pluto.

Where do you see the space industry in ten years?

I would expect the industry to have grown considerably. In ten years I expect to see more R &D happening on multiple space stations and astronauts on the Moon – and Mars.

What would you tell people just starting out in the space industry?

The best way to become a part of the space industry is to learn from others in the community. There are videoconferences, books… but reaching out and getting to know the people behind the industry is an ideal way to be involved. Many key players in the sector are mentioned in Space is Open for Business: The Industry That Can Transform Humanity, which I reviewed for the author, Robert Jacobson – it just launched this week.


What three words best describe you?

Decisive. Strategist. Optimist.

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