What kind of company has a valuation of $900 million, hundreds of millions in venture funding, $55 million cash in the bank from prepaid customers, and no CFO? A spacey one.
Virgin Galactic, a leader in the race to launch commercial space flights, is looking to hire the first CFO in a brand-new industry sector. “It’s a historic thing,” says George Whitesides, the former NASA chief of staff who is the company’s chief executive. “The executives here are thinking back to the early days of aviation, when companies like American Airlines were getting started. For the right person, it would be tremendously exciting.”
The right person will have strong experience in raising funds from private-equity investors and public offerings, ideally some prior experience or relationship with the aerospace industry, and a hint of merriment.
Virgin Galactic wants a CFO who “fits the Virgin brand,” which means someone who is hard-working but also dynamic and able to integrate work and fun, à la company founder and committed thrill-seeker Richard Branson. Yes, this will not only be the first CFO in a new sector, but quite possibly the first one to rocket into space.
The lucky finance chief will be moving fast back on terra firma, too. The company expects to offer its first commercial flights next year. Already more than 400 people have paid partial or full deposits of the $200,000-per-head price. And Virgin Galactic set a high bar for financing by winning a $280 million infusion last year from an Abu Dhabi-based firm, Aabar Investments, which valued the company at close to $1 billion.
For each flight, a mother ship will carry the SpaceShip Two spacecraft to 50,000 feet and let it go, whereupon a rocket will fire to take six passengers and two pilots 62 miles above the Earth. There they will experience the delights of looking out at the Milky Way free from the dimming effects of our planet’s atmosphere, floating weightless around the cabin, and gazing down at the continents and oceans from beyond the wild blue yonder.