How to Get an Aerospace Startup to Infinity and Beyond

or Harnessing the Energy of Employee Owned Culture


Gordon Moore, the prognosticator of the last half-century of microcomputer growth, once famously said “Intel is an egalitarian culture – If you want a close parking spot you have to get to work early!”

When he co-founded Intel, Moore adopted a new employee incentive plan from a San Francisco based newspaper – the Employee Stock Option Plan. The newspaper publishers saw employee ownership as the key to longevity. Gordon Moore saw it as the key to ingenuity.

Fifty years ago, Silicon Valley proved that participative management and employee investiture are the keys to unleashing the superpower of super talented technical experts. We now live in a brain-based economy, and our job as high tech business leaders is to be good stewards of the brains that power our businesses and build that economy.

On the fiftieth anniversary of Alan Shephard’s sub-orbital flight – May 5, 2010 – Roccor was launched by Will Francis with bootstraps and a passion to be in the middle of the new space renaissance of our industry. Within a few years, Roccor’s management team created an Employee Stock Option Plan to help attract a steady stream of brilliant people who were also passionate about transforming a middle-aged industry.

Since then Roccor’s products have helped a growing list of new space mission customers meet extremely demanding performance, budget, and schedule goals. Meanwhile Roccor’s staff has grown into a collage of over 80 people who are respected for their differences, valued for their individualism, and celebrated for their excellence. These Roccorians have built and now share a culture of creativity and diversity that yields elegantly simple solutions to complex problems our customers continue to bring to us.

Keeping up with this explosive growth, Roccor’s management team has had to re-assess the sustainability of Intel’s ESOP-based ownership model for the company. While it has provided a tangible (albeit non-liquid) financial incentive to attract employees, the ownership model has also proved difficult to scale and a disincentive to outside investment – a critical asset for fueling further growth.

And then Roccor met Redwire.

Funded by the private equity firm AE Industrial Partners, Redwire was established early this year to bring together fast-growing new space companies with traditional space companies that possess extensive flight heritage. The vision is to build a company with the capacity to better serve the rapidly changing needs of the space supply chain.

Redwire saw in Roccor an established and rapidly growing product line that naturally complements the other Redwire companies of Made in Space, Deep Space Systems, and Adcole Space. Moreover, Redwire saw in Roccor’s employees the deep sense of commitment and ownership that is the key, as Gordon Moore believed, to ingenuity.

Roccor saw in Redwire the perfect steward for sustaining company culture and growth. Timing-wise, Roccor is joining Redwire as it is getting off the ground riding a wave of expansive growth over the next five years. Financially, the acquisition allows Roccor’s employee owners to liquidate their speculative stock options and invest those returns in some better balance between their work and their lives! The acquisition also means that Roccor’s management team can afford to continue growing the company at a pace that was starting to stretch the company’s bootstraps.

While we will no longer be employee owned by the strictest definition, we remain an employee owned culture in which creativity and diversity yield elegantly simple solutions to complex problems and egalitarianism means. . .

If you want a close parking spot you will still have to get to work early!