5 Interesting Startup Deals You May Have Missed In May: Mining Asteroids, Smart Guns And Spotting Fake NFTs

Illustration of a robot arm/wrench turning a nut in the middle of the number 5.

This is a monthly column that runs down five interesting deals every month that may have flown under the radar. Check out last month’s entry here.

Yes, the venture capital market is going through some turmoil right now with fundings down and valuations dropping. However, that doesn’t mean there were not some intriguing startup deals.

Here’s a few:

Asteroid mining

AstroForge: Asteroids are known to hold valuable minerals like platinum and gold. The only problem is they’re in space—obviously—so mining them can be an issue.

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This is where Huntington Beach, California-based AstroForge comes in. The company locked up a $13 million seed round led by Initialized Capital last month to make such mining a reality.

The company has not shared much of its technology publicly, other than to say it enables in-space material refinement and that it has procured a rideshare launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9 vehicle. It also said it already is looking at potential mining targets as it prepares for a demonstration flight as early as January 2023.

While asteroid mining has been attempted before, the space economy as a whole really seems to be taking off—and space mining will get you on the list any day.

Smart guns

Biofire Technologies: Guns are definitely in the news right now. We are going to shy away from political talk, but we will talk about tech that could make guns safer.

Broomfield, Colorado-based Biofire Technologies raised a $17 million seed round and emerged from stealth after three years to bring its Smart Gun to market. The Smart Gun is a biometrically authenticated handgun that instantly unlocks for authorized users—but remains locked for others.

In announcing the round, the company said a Morning Consult poll from March found that 56% of gun owners support the development of smart guns.

The new funding will allow the company to launch an exclusive private beta program. Participants include those from the special forces, law enforcement and executive protection communities, said the company. It did not name investors.

NFT monitors

Doppel: Fraud increases in any market when interest and popularity also increase. NFTs are no different. Last month in this feature we profiled Boulder, Colorado-based FungyProof, which offers quick quality assessments and grades of NFT collections.

This month, it’s San Francisco-based Doppel’s turn. The company’s platform tries to help users spot fraud and counterfeit in the $40 billion NFT industry. Counterfeits have proliferated in the marketplace as it can be hard to tell if someone has simply uploaded an image and minted it as an NFT or if it’s the real thing. The problem has only become compounded as the amount of blockchains people build off of continues to grow.

The company claims its platform offers a real-time, cross-chain monitoring service for detecting NFT fraud and is able to detect and identify counterfeit NFTs in less than a minute.

That was enough to get some big-name investors to join the $5 million seed round which was led by FTX Ventures.

Better basketball

SIQ Basketball: It’s NBA Finals time, so how about a basketball-related startup on the list. SIQ Basketball was founded in 2008 by Finnish pro basketball player Harri Hohteri, who saw a need for more and better data in the sport.

From there, the company has developed its own smart basketball—approved by FIBA, the International Basketball Federation, for game play—which tracks more than 192 data points per shot. The smart ball, which has the same shape, size and feel of a regular basketball, coincides with an app to analyze every shot taken. The SIQ app has recorded more than 4 million shots since publicly launching in January 2021.

While it’s not clear if the ball and the app will make you the next Steph Curry, its performance so far was enough to help the company secure a $3 million round led by KB Partners.

Space balloons

Space Perspective: We started this list with a company involved in the space mining industry, so we’ll close it with a startup focused on the more consumer-facing space tourism industry.

Kennedy Space Center, Florida-based Space Perspective is a little different from Elon Musk’s SpaceX, Jeff BezosBlue Origin and Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic. The company has developed what it calls a “SpaceBalloon.” Basically a hot-air balloon, but powered by hydrogen and with a pod capable of holding eight passengers and a pilot.

The balloon is capable of taking folks more than 100,000 feet into the air—the “edge of space,” as the company calls it—for a six-hour flight. Space Perspective is aiming to start commercial flights in 2024.

The space balloon idea seems to have struck the fancy of investors. In October, the company announced a $40 million Series A, and then last month added an undisclosed amount from a group of investors including Silicon Valley Bank, Trinity Capital and investor Henry Kravis. The company said it has now ​​raised more than $65 million to date.

Clearly investors do not think the idea is just a bunch of hot air.

Illustration: Dom Guzman

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