Techstars and Starburst Aerospace are launching a space industry accelerator in Los Angeles

With the help of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab, the U.S. Air Force, Lockheed Martin, Maxar Technologies, SAIC and the Israel Aerospace Industries company, Techstars and Starburst Aerospace are launching an accelerator focused on the space industry in Los Angeles.

Already a major hub for the space and aerospace startup industry, with companies like SpaceX, Relativity Space, Virgin Orbit, Rocket Lab, Phase Four, and others calling Los Angeles home, the new accelerator will provide another booster for LA’s growing startup scene.

The new aerospace program, called the Techstars Starburst Space Accelerator, will be managed by longtime Techstars managing director, Matt Kozlov, who previously helmed Techstars’ efforts at its health-focused accelerator done in partnership with Cedars Sinai.

Van Espahbodi, the co-founder and managing director of Starburst Aerospace, a multinational aerospace investor and consultant, will be advising Kozlov on the program and bringing his firm’s expertise with government partners to the table.

Corporate sponsors for this program include, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Lockheed Martin, Maxar Technologies, SAIC and Israel Aerospace Industries, and the U.S. Air Force.

Investments in space and aerospace technologies are picking up, thanks in part to estimates like the one from Bank of America Merrill Lynch, which put the size of the space economy at roughly $3 trillion by 2045.

Even if those estimates are overblown, investor have already backed companies developing reusable rockets, 3D printing technologies, advanced materials, miniature satellites and other space-related technologies to the tune of at least $2.3 billion over the last year.

“The space industry is both massively exciting but also quite complex,” said Matt Kozlov, managing director of the Techstars Starburst Space Accelerator program, in a statement. “We are bringing together vital industry leaders, both public and private, who will help entrepreneurs navigate the industry and provide unprecedented commercial support and mentorship. We will help founders achieve two years of commercial traction in three months. Given the pedigree of our sponsors, I expect this program will very quickly become a vital resource for entrepreneurs building frontier tech.”

Applications for the accelerator are open today and the program will begin in July. And startup companies looking to connect with program staff prior to applying, or get feedback on their companies – are welcome to request Office Hours.

“The list of incredible companies just keeps growing,” said Espahbodi, the co-founder and managing director of Starburst, in a statement. “The broader aerospace industry has finally embraced the notion of ‘open innovation’ by partnering with entrepreneurs to co-develop products, with a compelling business plan to match. Starburst is excited to advise the program to ensure early-stage businesses have the appropriate tools to compete in this emerging marketplace.”

BeliMobilGue raises $10M for its used-car sales platform in Indonesia

BeliMobilGue, a used car sales platform in Indonesia, has fueled up with a $10 million Series round for the race to dominate the automotive market in Southeast Asia’s largest economy.

The company was started in 2017 as a joint venture between Europe’s Frontier Car Group (FCG) and Intudo Ventures, a VC firm focused on Indonesia. BeliMobilGue said today that the capital came from FCG and new investors, which include Tunas Toyota — the authorized dealership for Toyota cars in Indonesia.

It’s worth noting that FCG itself is a venture which, as the name sounds, develops on automotive ventures in emerging (frontier) markets in Latin America, Asia and Africa. Its investors include Naspers/OLX, Balderton Capital, TPG Growth and Partech Ventures.

This Series A round follows a $3.7 million round last year for BeliMobilGue — which means ‘buy my car’ in Indonesia’s Bahasa language.

BeliMobilGue is aimed at making it easy for car owners to sell their vehicle.

The first step is an online price estimation for vehicle. If the owner is happy with the valuation, BeliMobilGue takes the vehicles in and, after a one hour check attended in person by its testers, it arranges a sale to its network of over 1,000 dealers and private buyers. The entire process is targeted at one hour and is free for consumers, BeliMobilGue CEO Rolf Monteiro told TechCrunch.

The company has 30 physical testing points across Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital city, and with this money in the bank it is targeting expansion to Java. By the end of this year, Monteiro forecasts that the number of physical stations will have passed 100.

Another target for this year is ancillary services. BeliMobilGue is focused on enabling dealers, many of whom are often small businesses rather than nationwide chains, to growth with its service so it is offering financial packages financed by a third-party bank.

“The difference between small and large dealerships is their access to capital,” Monteiro explained in an interview. “We are a little bit more comfortable [than a bank] to extend their finance because we’re not just using data, we’re sitting on that dealer relationship.

“Plus we are sitting on cars, so we are financing cars that come from our platform and [if necessary] we can help offload the car for the dealer,” he added.

BeliMobilGue aims to sell vehicles within an hour, that includes a comprehensive inspection that’s carried out by its staff and covers 300 points.

BeliMobilGue is far from alone in going after Indonesia, which is the world’s fourth most populous country and the cornerstone of most digital strategies for the region. An annual report from Google and Temasek forecasts that Indonesia’s online economy will grow to $100 billion by 2025 from $8 billion in 2015. Southeast Asia as a whole is predicted to reach $240 billion, which is telling of the significance of Indonesia.

With that in mind, regional rivals have doubled down on Indonesia.

Carro has raised $78 million to date — including a $60 million Series B last year — while Carsome has $27 million and iCar Asia, from venture builder Catcha, has pulled in $39 million to date.

Each of that trio serves multiple markets across the region, not Indonesia exclusively, which is where Monteiro believes he can find an advantage. While he admitted that BeliMobilGue could have raised more money — it stuck to finding ‘smart money’ over amassing pools of cash, he said — he sees the existance of competition as win-win for the industry.

“Indonesia is a massive market,” he said. “Whether it is us, Carro or Carsome, the competition helps educate the market and it will get us new business. But, as much as I welcome them, I want that dominant position.”

Adding strategic investors like Tunas Toyota is, Monteiro believes another key differentiator.

“An investor like Tunas has 25-30 years of experience, so, for us, this partnership is golden. We’re quite content with the round and how it played out,” he said.

Showing the power of startup women’s health brands, P&G buys This is L

The P&G acquisition of This is L., a startup retailer of period products and prophylactics, shows just how profitable investing in women’s healthcare brands and products can be.

A person with knowledge of the investment put the price tag at roughly $100 million — a healthy outcome for investors and company founder Talia Frankel. But just as important as the financial outcome is the deal’s implications for other mission-driven companies.

This is L launched from Y Combinator in August 2015 with a service distributing condoms in New York and San Francisco and steadily expanded into feminine hygiene products.

Frenkel, a former photojournalist who worked for the United Nations and Red Cross, started the company in 2013 — roughly three years after an assignment in Africa revealed the toll that HIV/AIDs was taking on women and girls on the continent.

“I didn’t realize the No. 1 killer of women was completely preventable and I think that really inspired me to action,” Frenkel told TechCrunch at the time of the company’s launch.

Now the company has distributed roughly 250 million products to customers around the world.

“Our strong growth has enabled us to stand in solidarity with women in more than 20 countries,” said Talia Frenkel, CEO of This Is L., in a statement following the acquisition .“Our support has ranged from partnering with organizations to send period products to Native communities in South Dakota, to supplying pad-making machines to a women-led business in Tamil Nadu. Pairing our purpose with P&G’s expertise, scale and resources provides an extraordinary opportunity to contribute to a more equitable world.”

The company is available in more than 5,000 stores across the U.S. and is working with women entrepreneurs in countries from Uganda to India and beyond.

“This acquisition is a perfect complement to our Always and Tampax portfolio, with its commitment to a shared mission to advocate for girls’ confidence and serve more women,” said Jennifer Davis, President, P&G Global Feminine Care. “We feel this is a strong union and together we can be a greater force for good.”

For investors with knowledge of the company, the P&G acquisition is a harbinger of things to come. The combination of a non-technical, female founder operating in the consumer packaged goods market with a mission-driven company was an anomaly in the Silicon Valley of four years ago, but Frenkel’s success shows what kind of opportunities exist in the market.

“With this acquisition investors need to update their patterns,” said one investor with knowledge of the company.

Arctic gas to ease winter shortage

China’s annual imports from the Yamal natural gas project in the resource-rich Arctic region will further secure China’s energy security with increasing supplies of the natural gas, which is currently experiencing a severe shortage especially in northern China, said an executive from China National Petroleum Corp.

China leads in shipbuilding

Orders for China’s rebounding shipbuilding industry reached the top place in the world in the past 11 months, surpassing its counterpart South Korea, according to an international industrial analysis agency.

China to achieve coal capacity cut target next year

China is likely to achieve its goal of reducing coal capacity by 500 million metric tons well ahead of the planned three to five years target, according to a top industry official.

Hainan Airlines: More direct flights to Belt and Road countries

Hainan Airlines, China’s largest private airline, said it plans to launch more direct flights to the countries and regions involved in the Belt and Road Initiative.