The billionaire space race sees a new entrant: Salesforce founder Marc Benioff. The entrepreneur, best known for his advocacy for social justice and equity through the power of capitalism, revealed on Monday that he is an investor in Elon Musk’s SpaceX as well as space startups Astra, Swarm Technologies and Planet Labs.
Benioff made these investments through his venture capital firm, Times Ventures. “I actually think that space is a huge category that we should invest in,” he said on CNBC’s “Closing Bell” Monday afternoon. “I think those companies are amazing in the work they’re doing.”
Yet, unlike his peer billionaire space enthusiasts who can’t wait to go to space themselves, Benioff is not sure whether he wants to do the same. On Monday, Amazon’s outgoing CEO Jeff Bezos announced that he will fly on the first crewed flight of his space company, Blue Origin, in July. (The rocket has never been tested with a passenger on board.)
“I think it’s very exciting that he’s willing to basically say, ‘If you want to use my product, I will use it first.’ That’s 100% the right move.” Benioff said of Bezos’s announcement.
Asked whether he would follow the suit, Benioff joked, “I think I might have to take a couple of Ativans before I climb in there.”
Benioff’s investment in Astra was reported when the company announced a SPAC deal in February. The San Francisco-based startup specializes in making small (40-foot tall) rockets for delivering satellites. His stakes in SpaceX, Swarm and Planet Labs had not been disclosed before.
Planet Labs and Swarm are both based in the San Francisco Bay Area, close to Salesforce’s headquarter. Planet Labs designs and manufactures small Earth-imaging satellites, known as CubeSats. Swarm aims to build a satellite constellation in low Earth orbit for internet connectivity. The project is very similar to SpaceX’s rapidly-growing Starlink network.
It’s unclear how much Benioff has invested in these companies, especially SpaceX. The Musk-founded space company has seen its valuation surging in the past year. It was most recently valued at $74 billion, making it one of the most valuable private companies in the world.
Benioff’s net worth is estimated at $9.4 billion, according to Forbes.