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Thought Leader Forum

Thought Leader Forum

Space Billionaires: Educating the Next Generation of Entrepreneurs


Bios of Forum Participants

Dr. Frederick R. Best is Director of the Center for Space Power, a NASA Research Partnership Center and the Coordinator for NASA's eleven commercialization centers. The Space Power Center designs, fabricates, and tests advanced space power systems and develops payloads for the ISS and for Shuttle-based engineering technology demonstrations and experiments.He has more than thirty years experience in both military and civilian nuclear power and advanced space power systems in design, development, fabrication, test, manufacturing, and evaluation. he also has experience with the JSC safety review process, developing payloads that were integrated onto the KC-135 for numerous experiment flights.

Rick Citron is a practicing attorney with the firm of Citron & Deutsch in Westwood for the past 34 years. During that time he has formed over 2,000 new companies, acting both as a lawyer and business consultant. Those companies have raised in excess of $1.0 Billion in debt and equity financing. Some of them are household names.ick graduated from U.C. Berkeley with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Statistics, and a Master's Degree in Market Research. While attending UCLA Law School he taught Statistics, Marketing and Business Law at Cal State University, Northridge, and Corporations at Western State University law school. He is a true entrepreneur, having started some 4 dozen of his own companies.

Bill Collins is a Managing Director of Starboard Venture Partners, a fund in formation focusing on seed to early stage private equity investments in Southern California, and is Past President of the Tech Coast Angels LA, the dominant source of angel funding and guidance in Southern California. Bill started his career at Intel Corporation. He quickly became a lead sales person on the IBM account, helping establish the Intel-IBM relationship and carrying the #2 quota in the company. He was a key executive for International Rectifier (IR), ramping the company from $60M to over $700M. Collins was instrumental in taking IR’s power MOS technology from the early adopter phase to global market leadership in multiple market segments. He then became an angel investor and is a prolific deal lead with a successful portfolio. He serves in multiple director and advisory roles and is a certified corporate director. He is a frequent industry panelist and guest lecturer. Bill has an EE degree from Clarkson University.

Janice Dunn is Deputy Director of the California Space Authority, Inc. (CSA), a non-profit corporation founded to promote and advocate the continuing development and growth of California's Space Enterprise community.  She serves as Director of Policy for the Aerospace States Association, is a Steering Group member for the Space Exploration Alliance, and is CSA's representative to the Coalition for Space Exploration. Ms. Dunn has served in the U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on Science, as counsel to the Space Subcommittee.  In that capacity, she provided legal counsel to members of Congress and committee staff on issues related to NASA programs, including expendable launch vehicles, commercial space, and the International Space Station. 

Dr. Peter H. Diamandis, a pioneer and leader in the commercial space arena, is on a mission to spur innovation by creating contests which get entrepreneurial innovators and inventors to help create and break-open new markets and thinking. Peter says we can't wait for the government to fund the right things properly or quick enough. As the Chairman and CEO of the X PRIZE Foundation (www.xprize.org), Peter is changing the way the world thinks about its problems and their solutions. The X PRIZE Foundation sees the potential in competition. He believes that hallenges properly framed and inspired can unleash progress against the seemingly intractable grand challenges of our time. His first prize, the ANSARI X PRIZE was a $10M private space flight competition that changed the way the world hinks about space. His goal is to now use his proactive prize model to enable heroes and technological breakthroughs in other areas including energy, the environment, genomics, nanotechnology, medicine and in the social arena. He is the Chairman & Co-Founder of the Rocket Racing League, and serves as the CEO of Zero Gravity Corporation, a commercial space company developing private, FAA-certified parabolic flight utilize Boeing 727-200 aircraft. Diamandis is a co-founder of Space Adventures, Inc. (www.spaceadventures.com), the company which brokered Dennis Tito and Mark Shuttleworth's flight to the International Space Station. Dr. Diamandis attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) where he received his undergraduate degree in molecular genetics and graduate degree in aerospace engineering. After MIT he attended Harvard Medical School where he received his M.D. In 2005 he has was also awarded an honorary Doctorate from the International Space University. He is the winner of the Konstantine Tsiolkovsky Award, twice the winner of the Aviation & Space Technology Laurel, and the 2003 World Technology Award for Space.

Jeff Greason co-founded XCOR in September 1999 and serves as its President. XCOR is a privately held company located in Mojave, California that provides rocket engines and rocket vehicles to cost-sensitive government and private markets. XCOR has developed several generations of long-life, highly reusable rocket engines, a low cost piston pump for rocket propellants, and a manned reusable rocket aircraft, the EZ-Rocket, which has flown nineteen times without mishap. Mr. Greason was cited by Time magazine in 2001 as one of the “Inventors of the Year” for his work on the EZ-Rocket. Previously, he spent two years managing the propulsion team at the Rotary Rocket Company. There he built up the rocket engine development team, and led technical efforts in rocket engines. Prior to joining Rotary Rocket, Mr. Greason served as a technical manager at Intel Corporation. In 1992, he received the Intel Achievement Award for his work developing a less expensive BiCMOS technology than competitors, which became the basis for the Pentium product line. Mr. Greason was responsible for the first chip design on each technology generation, and shortened the design cycle so those new chips were ready three months in advance. Mr. Greason holds 18 U.S. patents and has a BS degree in electrical engineering from the California Institute of Technology.

David Knight , CEO, Big Moving Pictures, Inc., is a serial entrepreneur with over twenty years experience in starting, building, selling and taking public companies in the consumer and technology arenas. His range of knowledge covers telecommunications, laser-based systems, defense electronics, messaging, broadcast production and more. As an executive or Board member he has participated in several dozen companies over the years, some of which are now part of IBM, Microsoft, Quantum and other notable manufacturers. His most recent venture, Big Moving Pictures (formerly known as The Terbine Project) takes advantage of the innovations in large-format display technology now becoming available, and leverages strong partnerships in the media and advertising industries.
In 2004, David left the world of business to get involved with a true ad-venture: becoming the Vice President of the X PRIZE Foundation, who brought the world largest achievement prize to bear on the challenge of initiating private spaceflight for tourism and other purposes. Of course, the X PRIZE was won on October 4th by the SpaceShip One team led by Burt Rutan/Paul Allen, and excited a new group of future space entrepreneurs. David is involved with other non-profit activities including the Carolwood Pacific Society (holders of Walt Disney workshop amongst other treasures) and the MIT-Caltech Enterprise Forum. He is a UCLA Physics guy who has never been paid to be a physicist and a former Member of the UCLA Venture Fund board. In 2001, he received the Computerworld-Smithsonian Medal.

Karen Randall, Director of Special Projects, SETI Institute, has enjoyed a career in corporate and individual development. She has an extensive background in corporate consulting and management, with particular expertise in areas of international business, law, non-profit, and entrepreneurial ventures. As president and CEO of Treasure Map Inc., a Southern California consulting firm, Randall built an impressive client list including American Express, Genentech, Global Health Council, Houghton Mifflin, Lucent Technologies, Macromedia, and the San Francisco Giants, among many others. Focusing primarily in the areas of business development and strategic partnering, Randall and her team built customized strategic solutions to meet each client’s unique needs. Randall was engaged as a consultant to the SETI Institute in 2003, and accepted her permanent position as Director of Special Projects in 2004. Beginning in late 2004, she accepted the charge to create and coordinate innovative new initiatives for SETI Institute participation and recognition in world-class science in both the private and public sector. Her efforts encompass all aspects of the Institute’s core missions: the study of life in the universe, SETI, and science education.

Rick Searfoss has piloted two Space Shuttle missions and commanded a third, with over 939 hours in space and 5400 hours flying time in 61 different types of aircraft. His first space flight in 1993 set the record for the longest duration Space Shuttle mission. In 1996 he piloted Atlantis to the Russian space station Mir.With the STS-90 “Neurolab” mission on Columbia in 1998, Rick commanded the most complex scientific research space mission ever flown, with unparalleled mission success. Rick has over twenty-five years experience as a leader in some of the most demanding team endeavors possible – human space flight, test flying, and tactical military aviation.

Andrea Seastrand serves as Executive Director of the California Space Authority (CSA), a statewide non-profit corporation. She brings extensive knowledge of both the federal and state legislative processes as well as the vision and drive to ensure California's success as a leader in the highly competitive, international enterprise space marketplace.Mrs. Seastrand was a leader in the inception of The California Space and Technology Alliance (CSTA), serving as its first and only Executive Director from February 1997 until April 2001. Through her visionary leadership, CSTA grew into the current CSA, an organization focused on all three domains of California's diverse space enterprise community: commercial, civil and national security. By providing vision, voice and edge for California's space enterprise, CSA has been designated by the State of California as California's official spaceport authority since April 2001. Recognizing the value of collaborative strategic visioning, in 1998 Mrs. Seastrand oversaw the development of the country's first, true, statewide, strategic space enterprise plan. That plan was updated in 2004 with the California Space Enterprise Strategic Plan and CSA is playing a major role in its implementation. As a former US Congresswoman, Mrs. Seastrand led space support efforts at the federal level with the introduction of the National Spaceport Act of 1995.

John Spencer is a space architect and a pioneer in what he calls "The Design Frontier." He creates, designs, and develops his own space tourism-, Lunar/Mars-, and future-themed immersive simulation projects, while serving as a conceptual designer for some of the world's largest corporations. Since 1978, he has been recognized as a pioneer in the field of outer space architecture. He completed the first interior designs of the Spacehab module in 1983/4, which has now flown on orbit more than a dozen times. In 1995 he was awarded the Space Act Award and the Certificate of Recognition from NASA for innovative architectural design on the International Space Station (ISS) now in Earth orbit.. He has been a proponent of space tourism using the cruise ship industry model since the early 1980s, and is the founder and president of the nonprofit Space Tourism Society. He is the author, with Karen L. Rugg, of the first book on space tourism published in the United States titled, "Space Tourism: Do You Want to Go?."
Since 1997, he has been designing the world's first orbital super yacht called "Destiny," premiered in this book. He is the president, and chief designer of Red Planet Ventures, Inc. a research, design, licensing, and branding company, creating a wide range of Mars-themed simulation and media ventures ranging from a "Mars Resort and Spa" to a "Mars Expedition Base" to be built in the Mojave Desert opening in late 2007, to a "Mars Camp," and the "Mars Hall of Fame." He is currently designing the new NASA Ames Research Center's visitor center called "SpaceWorld."

Madhu Thangavelu conducts the ASTE 527 graduate Space Exploration Architectures Concept Synthesis Studio in the AST Division at the University of Southern California. He also teaches the Arch599 Extreme Environment Habitation Design Seminar in the School of Architecture where he is a graduate thesis adviser.
Mr. Thangavelu's educational background is in Architecture(Masters in Building Science, USC School of Architecture) and in Engineering(Bachelors in Science and Engineering, India). Since 1992, he is a creative consultant to the aerospace industry in this newly evolving field of space architectures complex concept synthesis. Mr.
Thangavelu's concepts have been reviewed and appreciated by NASA, the National Research Council, the National Space Council(Bush Sr. Administration), and his work has been presented before the National Academy of Sciences. He is a visiting lecturer at the International Space University(ISU) and co-chaired the Space Systems Analysis and Design Department at their 2002 summer session in California. He continues to present and publish original concepts in Space System Architectures and chairs related sessions at conferences. He is a co-author of the book "The Moon: Resources, Future Development and Colonization", John Wiley &Sons 1999, and second edition is in preparation. He is a former Vice Chairman for Education, Los Angeles Section of the American Institute Of Aeronautics and Astronautics(AIAA). He is director of Space Exploration Projects at the California Institute of Earth Art and Architecture.

George Whitesides is the Executive Director of the National Space Society, the largest space advocacy group dedicated to the creation of a spacefaring civilization. NSS has approximately 20,000 supporters and more than 50 chapters around the world. Founded in 1974 by Werner von Braun, NSS seeks to promote change to advance the day when humans will live, work and play in space. Whitesides began his career at Orbital Sciences Corporation as special assistant to the president. Since then, he has served as Vice President of Marketing for Zero Gravity Corporation, a private space-tourism company, and Director of Marketing for Blastoff Corporation, a space-experience company funded by film and technology leaders.A Fulbright scholar, Whitesides received his graduate degree in remote sensing and GIS from Cambridge University, and his undergraduate degree in public and international affairs from Princeton University.