It's not just ride-hailing apps and food-delivery start-ups anymore: Venture capitalists are now also exploring space for outsize returns.
Since January, investors have committed more than $200 million across 20 space-related deals, according to CB Insights. This is in addition to the $2.3 billion that they invested in 2015.
Steve Jurvetson, a partner at Draper Fisher Jurvetson, is an investor in space start-ups including private rocket builder SpaceX. He hopes his colleagues in Silicon Valley are motivated to invest in such start-ups because they are enthusiastic about exploring the frontiers of the unknown. But he acknowledges the more likely reason that they are committing capital to space: the prospect of attractive returns.
"This is an industry that has been sheltered from competition for decades, and there's an enormous pool of money to be made in launching satellite networks and new rockets," Jurvetson told CNBC. "Space now has opened up for commercial activity."
Thanks to powerful technology trends such as big data analytics and cloud computing as well as the increased efficiency and drop in price of electronic components, entrepreneurs can exploit money-making opportunities in space. In fact, there is a constellation of such start-ups now attracting investment and interest.
The most well-funded start-ups include SpaceX; OneWeb, which uses satellites to provide high-speed internet access; Blue Origin, the start-up founded by Amazon's Jeff Bezos; satellite-builder Planet; and Kymeta, a company backed by Bill Gates that sells small satellite antennas to expand connectivity around the world.
Venture capitalists say interest in space is increasing.
"Silicon Valley has been known to inspire herd-like behavior," says Peter Hebert of Lux Capital, which has put money to work in Kymeta, Planet and Orbital Insight, a company backed by Google that processes and analyzes images from satellite developers.