When the 5th year of the Creative Destruction Lab’s Space Stream started last fall it had expanded beyond its original hub in Toronto to include Paris and Atlanta. Multiple sources have since provided us with additional details.
The Creative Destruction Lab (CDL) is a familiar part of the Canadian innovation scene, providing a program that gives founders the opportunity to develop a viable, scaleable company.
As mentioned in past coverage of CDL on SpaceQ, CDL takes a very different approach to the task than other accelerators like Y-Combinator. While Y-Combinator is a short-but-intensive sprint among a small group of companies who are publicly announced, all of whom are expected to graduate, the CDL has a much longer process that lasts over nine months and the participating companies are kept confidential. Companies (Ventures in CDL speak) work with experienced mentors in each “Stream” (area of technological focus) to accomplish challenges that refine their offerings and their business model over those nine months.
CDL does not require equity, but graduation is competitive, with initially-large cohorts being winnowed down over time to a small number of graduates. The graduates in 2020’s Space Stream, for example, were winnowed down from 26 companies to 12. (For more on the actual CDL process from earlier on in the Space Stream’s history, click here to read our coverage of the Space Stream’s first cohort.)
Past graduates of CDL have found their feet and have often found real success. The majority of the CDL’s Space Stream graduates are international, but notable Canadian graduates include Wyvern Space, Reaction Dynamics, SpaceRyde, and Mission Control Space Services: all companies that are either already producing goods and services for both commercial and governmental clients, or (as with the launch companies Reaction Dynamics and SpaceRyde) moving forward steadily towards proving their launch capability.
Even companies that initially failed to graduate have benefited. Obruta Space Solutions was still in early development when it joined CDL’s second stream, so they were eventually dropped, but they returned later for 2022 and worked with CDL mentors to successfully pivot their business from providing debris-clearing hardware to the software that allows spacecraft to dock with others for repair, refueling, orbital changes, or de-orbiting.
With CDL’s success came the announcement of expansion in March of 2022. CDL announced that their Space Stream would be their first “global” stream, adding two new sites in Atlanta and Paris to “create a worldwide network of space innovators and investors that reaches around the world” and to “create a bridge between two continents — North America and Europe — that have different landscapes in space exploration and commercialization.”
The Atlanta site is based out of Georgia Tech’s Scheller College of Business, which also solely hosts the CDL’s Commerce Stream, and Georgia Tech was named by CDL as “one of the country’s top-ranked aerospace programs and attracts some of the most talented minds working in space technology.” More American exposure is likely to be a key CDL goal considering the importance of US Government contracts in the space sector.
Meanwhile, the Parisian operation is based out of the prestigious HEC Paris business school, and will also be hosting ventures and mentors related to the CDL’s Climate Stream.
Number of Companies in the Cohort
The Creative Destruction Lab process is largely kept secret and confidential, with both ventures and mentors required to maintain confidence regarding the selection and evaluation process. The CDL does not publish the number of initial entrants in a given stream until the stream is over.
SpaceQ however was told by sources that the current cohort started with approximately 40 forty companies, and that five of the companies are Canadian. By our records, this cohort would be the largest to date which makes sense with the addition of Paris and Atlanta. Who the companies are is not publicly disclosed.
The number of Canadian companies is welcome news, as there had been issues with earlier cohorts with a comparatively small number of Canadian entrants, raising questions about the selection process for the then-Toronto-based Space Stream. Now that the Space Stream is the first “global” stream, it would conceivably have been possible that the Canadian representation would be diminished. Though it’s worth mention that in year three that nine of the 29 companies were Canadian.
Questions on the “Global Stream”
How the Space Stream will be functioning as a “global stream” is one of the aspects that CDL has not discussed. According to their mentor page, every Space Stream mentor is described as being present at all three sites: CDL-Toronto, CDL-Paris, and CDL-Atlanta, this differs from other streams, as seen in Climate’s Oxford and Paris locations, where many mentors are tied to a single site within a common stream.
There also is no information yet as to what separates the “global” Space Stream from other multi-location streams, like Climate (with locations in Vancouver, Paris and Oxford) or Health (with specialized locations in Oxford, Toronto, Vancouver, Wisconsin and Seattle, as well as general-purpose sites in Oxford and Berlin.)
The international availability of Space Stream mentors may be the key, however, considering their press release said that the Toronto site “offers its existing community of CDL mentors and investors” to international ventures. According to the CDL website there are 65 mentors available globally for the Space Stream. It should be noted that mentors pick who they want to work with. As well, they pay their own expenses to attend on-site sessions scheduled approximately every two months. During the height of the pandemic attendance at the regularly scheduled sessions became virtual. And while the pandemic has lessened somewhat depending on location, and with the addition of Paris and Atlanta, it’s unclear if virtual attendance by mentors and ventures is allowed. SpaceQ did speak to some mentors who indicated they would not be travelling to all the in-person sessions.
There is also no news yet on which ventures are located where, or how many ventures are at each location. This may well have been specifically thought out for connecting ventures and mentors at each location, so this may not be an issue. Nevertheless, it’s something to pay attention to as this new cohort of ventures in CDL’s first “global stream” move towards either elimination or graduation.