By Sarah “Sassie” Duggleby, CEO and Co-Founder, Venus Aerospace
Authored: September 23, 2021
Published: December 2, 2021 (Texas CEO Magazine/YTexas)
”WE TOLD ARTURO MACHUCA AND JIMMY SPENCE EVERYTHING WE NEEDED TO DO. THEY SAID, “YOU CAN DO IT ALL HERE,” AND THEY WERE RIGHT.
My husband, Andrew, and I are a lot like most couples. We have kids, a dog, afterschool activities, etc., and like some of you, our careers are intertwined. Our daily lives at work, however, are out of this world. Literally. We’re building a spaceplane that enables one-hour global travel.
Last year, Andrew and I cofounded Venus Aerospace, with a mission to build a Mach 9 hypersonic aircraft designed to travel at the edge of the atmosphere. At that speed and altitude, you can take off from San Francisco and land in Tokyo an hour later, and still make it home in time for dinner.
I’m a seventh-generation Texan. I met Andrew while we were freshmen at Texas A&M. Since then, we’ve been all over: We were deployed to Japan (Andrew is a US Navy officer in addition to being a PhD rocket scientist) and we most recently lived in Southern California. There, we both worked for Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit.
When we started Venus Aerospace last year, we began scouting, looking all around the country for our future headquarters. Ultimately, like so many entrepreneurs, we felt the call to Texas. In our case, back to Texas. On our visit to the Houston Spaceport, we told Arturo Machuca and Jimmy Spence everything we needed to do. They said, “You can do it all here,” and they were right. The spaceport, located at Ellington Airport, offers ample space and infrastructure for our needs.
Once we moved our company here, we realized being at Ellington Airport offers more than we’d ever imagined. The connections we’ve made with the broader aviation and aerospace community have far exceeded our expectations. People aren’t just open to sharing knowledge—they’re eager to. That includes the other companies headquartered at the spaceport, the people down the road at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, and those at hundreds of other aerospace companies in the region.
We also get to take advantage of being near the incredible R&D taking place at area universities. We’re the beneficiaries of a diverse local workforce that includes everything from technicians to PhD rocket scientists. There’s capital around too, and more importantly for us, it’s patient capital. Venus Aerospace isn’t some quick SaaS play. We’re a 10-year deep-tech play. Fortunately, we’ve found investors nearby who are in it for the long haul, who want to be real partners in innovation.
You already know so many of the other benefits of business in Texas. The low cost of living, the tax benefits, and the business-friendly operations. We’re pleased with our decision to move back to Texas for these and many other reasons. Nowhere else can you test a rocket engine and still get the kids to swim team and soccer practice all in the same afternoon. It’s just one example of the rich ecosystems offered to businesses and entrepreneurs all across the state, and it just happens to get you home for dinner.
Sarah “Sassie” Duggleby is the CEO and cofounder of Venus Aerospace. Before launching Venus, she was Launch Systems Engineering and Mission Management Consultant at Virgin Orbit. She has spent her career growing multiple high-tech startup businesses.