The San Francisco Bay Area is a hotbed of technical innovation and entrepreneurship. It’s one of the reasons why LendingClub itself was founded and continues to flourish here. And it’s not just internet companies thriving in Silicon Valley—one of our newest customers, Stellar Scientific, is an aerospace firm nestled in the East Bay.
Greg Delory and his co-founders are established space scientists at University of California, Berkeley and working on projects for NASA. Through their work they created new, proprietary technology to provide antennas for use on autonomous space vehicles. It was the perfect niche to build their startup around. Today, Stellar Scientific designs, develops, and delivers high reliability mechanisms and hardware for aerospace, industrial, and research applications.
The group founded Stellar Scientific a few years ago while still working on their existing NASA projects. The startup really started making traction in 2014 when their work attracted the attention of a French space agency and they won a multi-million dollar contract with the agency. They received an advance payment which allowed them to expand quickly to take on this new contract.
Stellar Scientific became a boutique aerospace company with the know-how and brain power to build very unique technology. About midway through the contract with the French agency, their startup piqued the interest of NASA. The government agency wanted to leverage Stellar Scientific technology for the radar antennas for the Rover Clipper mission on Mars. Greg and his colleagues realized they needed additional working capital—and needed it quickly. They wanted to expand locations, hire more employees, buy additional equipment and build out their facility.
Although they had a pristine balance sheet and a developed corporate structure, they knew it would still be difficult to get traditional bank financing for their startup. The group turned to an aggregator site that provided multiple business loan offers across various lenders. Greg and his colleagues initially chose what they thought was a good offer but unfortunately the financing fell through simply because the lender didn’t understand their industry. That’s when LendingClub stepped up.
A LendingClub Small Business Client Advisor reached out to Greg and took the time to learn what Stellar Scientific did and what they would use a loan for. Within weeks of that initial conversation, LendingClub was able to provide access to financing to the aerospace firm, allowing them to expand their company and continue work on their two existing contracts. In the not too distant future, Greg hopes to expand on their current line of work and get a third customer.
In the next five years, the aerospace firm plans to double down on their strategy. Greg envisions them building a new space system using sensors and satellites but for commercial purposes—a revolution in big data, SPACE 2.0. Stellar Scientific would provide the link for orbital systems to get crucial information in an ecosystem of data analysis. The applications of such a system are wide-ranging and profound. For example, such a system could be used to study the climate, assess whether companies were compliant in their carbon emission, measure water quality, study population density and urban planning—the possibilities are endless. Such a system could be used to learn about anything and everything on our planet.
Greg always had an entrepreneurial itch and is thrilled to have gone through the journey of starting his own business. Like any entrepreneur’s story it has had its ups and down but it’s all been worth it in the end. Greg is doing amazing, ground-breaking work in a field that he has always loved.
However, you don’t have to be a space engineer to pursue your passion. Greg’s advice for new entrepreneurs is to do what you enjoy and what you’re passionate about but to match that with practicality—you need to have a viable plan for your business. That balancing act is what separates the successful from the not. If you take hit, get back up—persistence and drive will get you through the hard times. And when times are good, don’t become complacent—always be innovating!
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