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Founders Fund Talks Space, Robots, Elon Musk and Why It Didn’t Back Tesla Motors

It was nearly five years ago that Founders Fund — led by four entrepreneurs with deep ties to PayPal and Facebook — burst onto the venture scene, promising founders more autonomy than traditional VC firms and promising investors that it would transform its connections, including to former PayPal executives, into rich returns.

So far so good, apparently. Despite a sluggish fundraising environment, Founders Fund, which has already seen a handful of its portfolio companies acquired — CoTweet, Mint, Powerset, IronPort, and CyberTrust — announced last week that it had closed a $250 million “oversubscribed” third fund, its biggest to date.

In a wide-ranging discussion earlier today, managing directors Ken Howery and Luke Nosek talked about that new fund, along with some of the firm’s highest-profile investments; notable companies they haven’t backed; and the nerdy — and potentially lucrative — areas that interest the firm today.

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Elon Musk on Why His Rockets Are Faster, Cheaper and Lighter Than What You’ve Seen Before

On Wednesday, I was on a call with Elon Musk, CEO of both Tesla Motors and space exploration company SpaceX. The latter company was announcing what it’s hailing as the “largest single commercial launch deal ever” — a $492 million contract to carry into space the mobile telecommunications satellites of Iridium Communications, beginning in 2015. Though […]

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Elon Musk Weighs in On WSJ Piece, and Future of SpaceX

If you’ve been reading over the past day, you know that I yesterday wrote a piece wondering if the reportedly stretched finances of entrepreneur Elon Musk are of interest not only to Tesla Motors, the pre-IPO electric car company where he is CEO, but also of the space exploration company SpaceX, which Musk founded and where he is both CEO and CTO. (Musk, who made his fortune as a PayPal cofounder, has since invested all of his liquid assets in both companies.)

My interest was piqued after reading a WSJ piece reporting that SpaceX “needs a cash infusion of more than $1 billion in the next year or two to reach its goal of transporting astronauts to the international space station later this decade.” The story went on to suggest that, given the Obama administration’s plans to turn space travel over to private companies, “U.S. taxpayers are the most likely source of future assistance.”

SpaceX board member (and fellow PayPal cofounder) Luke Nosek, told me today that Musk’s personal financial picture is irrelevant. The reason, he said, is that SpaceX is expected to be profitable this year, as it has been for the past several years, owing to some very rich contracts. One is with Loral Space & Communications. A much bigger contract, valued at $1.6 billion, is with NASA, which is counting on SpaceX, as well as one of its competitor, Orbital Sciences, to transport cargo to the International Space Station once it retires its last shuttle in November.

Tonight, Musk writes in with some more data points that are worth publishing.

On Future Promise, SpaceX Expected to Be Profitable (Again) for 2010

Last night, I wrote about SpaceX after a Wall Street Journal article stated that the company “needs a cash infusion of more than $1 billion in the next year or two to reach its goal of transporting astronauts to the international space station later this decade. That’s twice the total investment by SpaceX since its […]

SpaceX Launches a Rocket, But Can It Fly Without Elon Musk’s Many Millions?

Earlier today, the Wall Street Journal published a compelling story about SpaceX, the space exploration company that hyperentrepreneur Elon Musk is running concurrently with Tesla Motors and that successfully launched a rocket — called the Falcon 9 — into a 155-mile orbit last Friday.

The piece provides a detailed overview of SpaceX’s past woes as evidence that privatizing space travel is a risky proposition, but it doesn’t ask a key question: whether SpaceX can continue competing for the U.S. government’s business in light of Musk’s stretched personal finances.

It was just a couple of weeks ago that Musk confirmed to VentureBeat that he has been living off the fast-dwindling personal loans of friends. The admission came after Musk revealed — in a February court filing relating to his divorce from science fiction novelist Justine Musk — that he ran out of his own money last November.

Jurvetson Propelling $60 Million SpaceX Round

Rocket aficionado Steve Jurvetson and his DFJ partners have agreed lead a major investment in space transportation provider SpaceX, PE Week (peHUB’s sister publication) has learned. The round could be worth upwards of $60 million, and would include existing SpaceX backer Founders Fund.

Jurvetson declined to discuss the specifics of SpaceX’s financing. Regulatory filings show the company had raised $15 million toward a proposed $60 million round as recently as March. Jurvetson says that the round has either closed already or will close within the next 14 days.

Executives at SpaceX were not available for comment.

The Hawthorne, Calif.-based company has raised $112 million in funding since 2002, according to regulatory filings. Most of that financing has come directly from SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, who holds the title of CEO, CTO and founder of the company. Musk was

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