Marc Bell of PredaSAR: “Follow your dreams”


An example of positive disruption is the miniaturization of satellites. Satellites used to be enormous, and cost billions of dollars to manufacture and launch, making it the exclusive domain of countries. Today, it is significantly more cost effective to manufacture and launch satellites, enabling well-capitalized private companies to enter the space and generate significantly more breakthroughs than we would’ve otherwise seen, having left it all up to governments. That’s positive disruption.


As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Marc Bell.


Marc Bell is an American financier and space entrepreneur and investor. He is the co-founder and Executive Chairman of Terran Orbital and co-founder and Executive Chairman PredaSAR, which will launch and operate the world’s largest constellation of Synthetic Aperture Radar spacecraft for government applications and commercial uses. He is also the managing partner of Marc Bell Capital, a Boca Raton, Florida-based firm founded in 2003.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?


My childhood dream was to become an astronaut. That obviously didn’t come to pass, so I figured the next best thing would be to be an entrepreneur and investor in space. I co-founded PredaSAR, and Terran Orbital which acquired Tyvak, and have invested in many more.


My first foray into the space segment in recent times was Terran Orbital, which I co-founded in 2013 and is considered the pioneer in “new space.” Terran has since become the corporate parent of many groundbreaking ventures in the space sector, such as Tyvak, which is today one of the largest manufacturer of nanosatellites in the world with over 220 satellites put into space; and PredaSAR, which is building and will operate the largest and most advanced constellation of Synthetic Aperture Radar satellites for myriad critical national security applications, as well as commercial uses.


I’ve always been a tech entrepreneur. I was one of the founders of New York City’s “Silicon Alley.” I founded Globix — the Global Internet Exchange — in 1989, which became the world’s largest logical peer connecting over 1,000 internet providers around the world and helping to build the internet backbone. With a global network spanning more than 28,000 miles of fiber and the second-largest owner of Internet Data Center space, it hosted major websites for companies like Microsoft and Walmart.


I first became interested in technology when I began playing with computers in high school. I first touched a keyboard in 1979 and got into programming and learned how to code. I became the president of the computer club of my high school. Then a few years later, my dad had a client called the Graphic Scanning Corp. He asked whether I wanted to meet the CEO, Barry, and tour their offices. I realized then I wanted to build data centers. That’s how Globix happened. The rest is history.


Can you tell our readers what it is about the work youre doing thats disruptive?


PredaSAR will be disruptive in a number of ways, not just because of its scale — it will be the largest constellation of synthetic aperture radar spacecraft in the world — but also because of its precision. Through Tyvak, we’ve taken an educational demonstrator satellite and turned it into an industry standard, by which all satellites will be built today and moving forward. This was revolutionary for the satellite industry, because all a sudden you didn’t have to spend a billion dollars to build a satellite. Now it’s millions of dollars. It’s not just countries that can build and launch satellites — private companies can too, which will accelerate innovation in this space tremendously. It’s a monster change.


Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?


One of the companies I founded was called Bell Technology Group when we went public. Right away, I get sued by AT&T and the seven Baby Bells for trademark infringement. Bell is my last name! It was during that lawsuit that I first became familiar with the concept of scorched-earth theory of litigation — it’s not whether you win or lose your case in court, it’s whether you can ultimately afford the litigation. AT&T was going to sue me and bankrupt me. So I said, “You win! I’ll change the name.” So I changed it to Globix. Changed the public name. Problem solved. Then I wake up the next day to about a million voicemails. “Why are you naming it glob? Everyone is calling it glob.” Overnight, I went from being a tech CEO to being the CEO of a glob. A marketing nightmare, both times around. I added a tagline that said “The Global Internet Exchange” to try to clear up the pronunciation confusion. What an ordeal. A lesson well learned.


We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?


My father was probably the biggest force in my life. He said to become a doctor, lawyer or accountant. I studied accounting in undergrad and got my master’s in real estate development. I’d say my biggest mentor, in the formal sense, was a guy named Steve Becker. He was my sister’s boyfriend when I was young, and he ended up being one of the most important people in my life. He taught me so much — how to negotiate, how to stand up for myself, both in business and in life. He taught it’s okay to say no, and that it’s okay to do things the way you want to do them. That if you believe in something, you should pursue it.


In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has withstood the test of time? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is not so positive? Can you share some examples of what you mean?


An example of positive disruption is the miniaturization of satellites. Satellites used to be enormous, and cost billions of dollars to manufacture and launch, making it the exclusive domain of countries. Today, it is significantly more cost effective to manufacture and launch satellites, enabling well-capitalized private companies to enter the space and generate significantly more breakthroughs than we would’ve otherwise seen, having left it all up to governments. That’s positive disruption.


Examples of negative disruption are nuclear weapons, biological weapons, chemical weapons…


If a type of disruption helps improve our quality of life, our longevity, then that’s positive disruption. Anything else, we can do without.


Can you share 3 of the best words of advice youve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.


Here are three words: Follow your dreams. My dream was to build data centers so that’s gotten me to where I am today.


We are sure you arent done. How are you going to shake things up next?


PredaSAR is my next venture. SAR technology is going to change the world, by making it a better, safer place. We’re going to completely change the way people look at Planet Earth from space.


Do you have a book, podcast, or talk thats had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?


Michael Porter’s “Competitive Strategy” and Tom Hopkins’ “How to Master the Art of Selling.”


The Hopkins book taught me how to talk to people. It was very good at teaching you how to have a conversation and win people over with your ideas. For example: if you’re standing in front of me, and I say, “You like the shirt I’m wearing, don’t you?” You’ll naturally want to say yes. The brain is hardwired to answer in the affirmative. It has to take difficult backchannels to say no, and takes more thought.


Porter taught you how to analyze a business, analyze a market. Taught you what high barriers to entry are. All of the concepts in it still apply to my life today. How to be competitive, stay competitive, business life cycles. As you read it, you learn how to avoid the pitfalls.


How can our readers follow you online?


Follow me on LinkedIn.


This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

MBCP-Logo.png
  • LinkedIn

© 2020 MARC BELL CAPITAL LLC