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Investor Spotlight: Starburst Aerospace CEO François Chopard

The French founder has built a global network of accelerators and investment funds that have worked with more than 120 startups in aerospace and defense.

Starburst Aerospace CEO François Chopard
Starburst Aerospace CEO François Chopard

When it comes to pushing the world's aerospace and defense industries into the future, it can seem at times that François Chopard is single-handedly trying to catalyze innovation across these sectors.

More than a decade ago, the former Airbus engineer founded Starburst Aerospace, a global firm that operates a network of 20 aerospace or defense accelerators that have boosted more than 120 startups, invests in some of those startups, and offers innovation consulting services to large corporate partners. In 2015, he started Starburst Ventures to expand that investment strategy to Pre-Seed and Seed-Stage aerospace and defense startups. That same year, Starburst partnered with investment fund Audacia to create Expansion Ventures to begin raising a €300 million fund to back French and European aerospace and defense startups.

Chopard's work in the U.S. gave him an early view into startups like SpaceX and the potential innovation that would be coming to sectors like aviation, space, and the military.

"With the cost reduction of launch, I could see that new types of satellite constellations could be available in space, which would enable new types of services," Chopard said.

The bulk of Starburst's work has been in the U.S., which Chopard believes had a significant headstart. But Starburst also has a substantial presence in France and Europe.

Once Upon A Time...

Chopard speaking with French Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron in 2015. Photo via Twitter.
Chopard speaking with French Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron in 2015. Photo via Twitter.

Chopard began his career as an engineer for Airbus before relocating to the U.S. to work in a lab for the U.S. Air France. After a couple of years, he returned to France having become more interested in innovation than pure engineering. Following a brief stint at a startup, he joined a consulting practice to help large corporations scout innovation projects and understand emerging technologies.

In 2012, he split off and founded Starburst Aerospace.

Today, Starburst is a global organization with 60 employees spread across 8 countries. That work with large corporate partners such as Northrop Grumman, Thales, and Airbus remains a pillar of Starburst's work. And depending on the circumstances, it can also lead to its two other pillars: accelerators and investment.

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