Though it is still several years in the future, SpaceX founder Elon Musk says the space satellite internet company Starlink would eventually go public and be heavily targeted towards small retail investors.
However, the goal of taking Starlink public has come into sharper focus amid recent comments Musk made over Twitter about his plans to spin0off the Starlink program from SpaceX and eventually file for IPO, "once [he[ can predict cash flow reasonably well.
The internet-focused satellite company recently expanded the focus of its beta program. According to the most recent FCC filings, Starlink has more than 10,000 users in its pilot program, which costs $99 per month in addition to a $499 startup kit, shipping, and taxes and fees.
What is SpaceX Starlink?
SpaceX is a private American space travel company founded by Elon Musk in 2002. Starlink represents Musk’s push to provide internet broadband from space. According to The Next Web, he aims to send about 12,000 satellites into low orbit by the year 2025. Providing high-speed internet worldwide is a part of this goal.
So far, SpaceX has successfully launched more than 1,000 Starlink satellites. For minimum basic operations, this is a sufficient number, and may be near the number required to roll out the service.
Musk and Starlink face competition from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who is working on internet from space in his Project Kuiper. With $10 billion going into Project Kuiper, Bezos already has secured FCC approval for 3,236 internet satellites, but hasn’t launched any yet.
Another competitor is OneWeb, a London-based internet-from-space firm. The UK government paid $500 million to have a 45 percent stake in OneWeb in June.
Musk has praised the potential of Starlink service, saying it “will rapidly expand to near-global coverage of the populated world in 2021.”
The SpaceX Starlink beta launch has gone from private to public.
Musk told reporters in May 2020 that Starlink had the potential to bring in $30 billion per year, which is around 10 times the highest annual revenue projected from its core rocket business.
In June, Motley Fool reported that Starlink was bringing in steady income with its launches. This is “helping advance the company's goal of establishing a space-based communications network that could be used in future efforts to get to the moon and beyond.”
CNBC reported in Aug. 2020 that close to 700,000 individuals had expressed interest in the Starlink internet service. Private beta testing began in the summer, and public beta testing began to roll out in October, with an expansion into parts of Canada and the UK in January 2021.
Further international expansion seems to be in the works, with records showing Starlink has registered subsidiaries in at least 15 other countries throughout Europe, the Americas, and Oceania, as well as the Philippines and South Africa.
There is no Starlink IPO date in sight yet, but it's long been the plan to take it public.
Shotwell noted in Feb. 2020 (via TNW): “Right now we are a private company, but Starlink is the right kind of business that we can go ahead and take public.” The Starlink IPO is still several years off, though, as it will take billions in investment to establish his satellite constellation.
SpaceX needs to pass through a deep chasm of negative cash flow over the next year or so to make Starlink financially viable. Every new satellite constellation in history has gone bankrupt. We hope to be the first that does not.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 9, 2021
“Every new satellite constellation in history has gone bankrupt," Musk recently tweeted, justifying the high cost of the Starlink beta. "We hope to be the first that does not.”
In 2018, Shotwell said (via CNBC) that SpaceX as a whole “can’t go public until we’re flying regularly to Mars.”
We will probably IPO Starlink, but only several years in the future when revenue growth is smooth & predictable. Public market does *not* like erratic cash flow haha. I’m a huge fan of small retail investors. Will make sure they get top priority. You can hold me to it.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) September 28, 2020
Musk himself tweeted on Sept. 28, referring to the eventual Starlink IPO. “We will probably IPO Starlink, but only several years in the future when revenue growth is smooth and predictable.” He referred to the public market’s dislike for “erratic growth.”
Can I buy Starlink stock?
Currently, Starlink is not a publicly traded entity. Musk (via Reuters) claimed to be “a huge fan of small retail investors” and that they will receive top priority when the company does go public.
SpaceX is a highly valuable private company, with a value of over $33.3 billion (via CNBC). Analysis group Equidate has reported that the company can access “an unlimited amount of funding” through the private market.