Washington – Less than a week after leaving the agency, former NASA director Jim Bridenstein joins a private equity firm that invests in the aerospace and defense industries.
Acorn Growth Companies, an Oklahoma City-based private equity firm, said on January 25 that it has hired Bridenstine as a senior advisor, to help the company make investments in companies in the aviation, defense and intelligence sectors and support the company’s existing portfolio. .
“My goal is to really see some of the opportunities for Acorn in terms of companies that have the best value, highest growth opportunities, and be part of helping shape the portfolio,” Bridenstine said in an interview, and also be part of some of the operating companies currently in the portfolio Acorn to improve returns and grow those companies. “
Bridenstine, in interviews in his final days as a NASA official, did not announce his future plans once his tenure at the agency ended on January 20. When asked if he wants to participate in the space industry in some way, he said, “We have to see.”
In the interview after joining Acorn, he said the job was a good fit for his background, which includes his MBA degree, as well as his experience with NASA. “I’ve been interested in financing and investments for a while,” he said, and pointed to Acorn’s work in sectors at least adjacent to space. “It really did fit based on these things.”
Another factor, he added, was that the job was based in Oklahoma. Bridenstine lives in Tulsa, and it was mentioned while leaving NASA that he looks forward to spending more time with his family there.
For Acorn, hiring Bridenstine allows the company to capitalize on its expertise as it condensates a new fund, the Acorn Aerospace & Defense Fund V. Rick Nagel, Acorn’s managing partner, said in an interview. “It brings up the perspective of the entire federal space strategy.”
Acorn has not yet invested in companies that operate primarily in the space industry. Nagel said he has invested in companies that were “Tier 3” suppliers to larger contractors, but are now monitoring more high-profile companies. “The startups today that are making money in the space industry look different today than they did 10 years ago,” he said. “Some create a true business model, make money, and fill in a niche”
Nagel said that unlike venture capital firms that make more speculative investments in early-stage startups, Acorn invests in more mature companies that are making profits but need financing to expand their business. “Space now, for us, is mature enough for private equity,” he said. “It will only continue, thanks to the efforts of Director Bridenstein, and the hard work to make sure that the marketing of space is a reality.”
Nagel declined to specify the size of the new fund, citing SEC regulations amid ongoing fundraising activity. The company currently has $ 650 million under management from other investments, and it expected the new fund to split its evening investment between airlines, defense, and intelligence. “Space can pass through any of these,” he said.
Bridenstine said there is no conflict of interest that would restrict his work at Acorn, except for a “cooling off period” where he cannot represent Acorn to NASA. He said, “At this time, Acorn doesn’t have much, if any, business with NASA directly.”