LA-Based Apex Is Tapping Into the Small Satellite Market by Making Buses for Spacecraft

Spencer Rascoff

Spencer Rascoff serves as executive chairman of dot.LA. He is an entrepreneur and company leader who co-founded Zillow, Hotwire, dot.LA, Pacaso and Supernova, and who served as Zillow's CEO for a decade. During Spencer's time as CEO, Zillow won dozens of "best places to work" awards as it grew to over 4,500 employees, $3 billion in revenue, and $10 billion in market capitalization. Prior to Zillow, Spencer co-founded and was VP Corporate Development of Hotwire, which was sold to Expedia for $685 million in 2003. Through his startup studio and venture capital firm, 75 & Sunny, Spencer is an active angel investor in over 100 companies and is incubating several more.

​Ian Cinnamon
Ian Cinnamon

On this episode of Office Hours, Apex founder and CEO Ian Cinnamon discusses the importance of investing in space exploration and shares his thoughts on the evolving space ecosystem in Los Angeles.



Apex is a space manufacturing company that offers productized configurable satellite buses with a focus on meeting the needs of the rapidly expanding space industry.

Founded in 2022, Cinnamon strategically chose Los Angeles as home base because he is a firm believer that the city is “the aerospace capital of the world.”

“It really comes down to the caliber of the talent and the companies that have been established in this area,” he said. “Strategically, we're very close to Vandenberg Air Force Base where we have a launch facility. So driving distance to a great strategic launch facility means that years and years ago, a lot of these defense companies opened up shop in the L.A. area to be able to serve those needs.”

In the past, companies would use single- use rockets, but the surge of space startups in the area building reusable rockets has helped drive down the cost of launches.

While there has been some pushback on space exploration, Cinnamon believes that the work he and his fellow colleagues have done is significant in pushing the boundaries of what we currently know.

“All of the satellites that our buses enable and other satellite buses enable us to better map and understand climate change,” he explained. “If we can't measure it, we can't fix it because we don't know if what we're doing is actually working. But if we had never invested beyond the Moon Program decades ago, and we just had no space as a matter of focus on Earth, we wouldn't have the ability to measure our ozone layer or understand the changing climate.”

Prior to his work with Apex, Cinnamon founded Synapse which built AI systems for security and the defense industry.. It was through this experience he learned how to work with the data from different satellites of various space companies.

“In all of my conversations with these different companies that were launching their payloads into space, they would complain constantly about the satellite bus,” Cinnamon said. “They would say we're able to manufacture our payloads really quickly, we're able to sell the data. But the biggest bottleneck for us is the bus is delayed, the bus didn't work.”

As Cinnamon encountered such frequent complaints, he turned to his friend Maximilian Benassi to find a solution. That solution is Apex.

In addition to the bottlenecks the space industry was facing, Cinnamon said he also built Apex to coincide with humanity’s natural ascent into space.

“In order for that camera, or that sensor or that human life support module, we call those payloads, to actually function in space, you attach it to what's called the satellite bus,” Cinnamon said. “Think about what you'd imagine a satellite to look like, you'd probably think of this metal structure, the solar panels, maybe some sort of engine, all of that is actually the bus, not the rest of the satellite like the payload…At Apex, we manufacture the bus, which is the core component of that satellite that lets the payload actually survive and thrive in space.”

In the past, NASA was the biggest driving force behind space innovation, but in the last few years that has shifted to the private sector because of companies like SpaceX making its mark on the industry. The reason for this change is in part because NASA started to outsource some of their projects.

“More of these private companies have raised their hand and said, ‘Hey, NASA needs this done,’” he said. “NASA needs a new rover for the moon. NASA needs this instead of going to the traditional defense industrial base, or your typical primes.They now have more competition. These new companies are raising their hand saying ‘we'll go do that’ and this is really all pioneered by SpaceX coming online and saying, ‘Hey, instead of it being the same traditional players building the rockets, what if a commercial company came about and did that?’”

dot.LA Reporter Decerry Donato contributed to this post.

Want to hear more episodes? Subscribe to Office Hours on Stitcher, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, iHeart Radio or wherever you get your podcasts.

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