RSA founder and CEO Shawn Usman with his winning check at the top of Taos Ski Valley

Rhea Space Activity Wins CNM Ingenuity’s Eighth-Annual Ski Lift Pitch

The company, which developed a celestial navigation system called the Jervis Autonomy Module, took home first place during the event where startups get to pitch investors while riding the chairlift at Taos Ski Valley
March 02, 2023

CNM Ingenuity and presenting sponsor the New Mexico Outdoor Recreation Division are excited to announce that Rhea Space Activity (RSA) is the winner of the eighth-annual Ski Lift Pitch competition in Taos, New Mexico. The Ski Lift Pitch brings together pre-seed and seed-stage startups headquartered in or growing in New Mexico with world-class venture capitalist funds and the duos jump on the lifts at Taos for quick pitch sessions. The winning startup takes home $10,000 in prize money and all the startups get to build important connections for the future of their businesses.

RSA’s win marks the first time a space technology company has entered and won the competition.

The annual Ski Lift Pitch Contest began in 2015 after event founder Katie Rice started the event to attract more investors to New Mexico. With the support of Taos Ski Valley the event has successfully brought together snow-loving investors and startups for the past eight years. Former Ski Lift Pitch Contest winners include Taos Bakes, UbiQD, EquiSeq, Twistle, Medicheck, and Parting Stone.

“Ski Lift Pitch is one-of-a-kind,” said T.J. Cook, an Executive Director at CNM Ingenuity. “Connecting entrepreneurs and investors through outdoor recreation is one the biggest values we bring to New Mexico. New Mexico is also the heart of the emerging ‘Space Valley’ and this year we had two space technology companies competing in the event.”

Alyssa Renwick, Deputy Director of the Outdoor Recreation Division, said, “We are thrilled to continue our partnership with CNM Ingenuity. We know our state is a destination for innovation, enterprise, and outdoor recreation and we are excited to continue to partner on pitch events like this that bring all three of those things together in one place.”

After an initial weather event caused a delay in skiing, competitors on the mountain pitched investor judges one at a time before enjoying several ski runs. The judges then scored each pitch on a five-category scorecard to determine which one of four companies from each group would make it to the final round. Those three finalists then pitched to a full crowd and a separate group of judges from an indoor stage.

The three finalists were RSA, Biteline and VastVision.

RSA, represented at the event by Astrophysicist and CEO Shawn Usman, from Washington, DC, is a company that has developed a celestial navigation system called the Jervis Autonomy Module (JAMTM). RSA’s JAM product has been developed to allow spacecraft to autonomously navigate space, without using GPS, by taking pictures of planets, satellites, asteroids, and lunar surface features. Usman’s Ski Lift Pitch explained how RSA’s JAM product not only has application in orbit, but also has applicability for U.S customers in exoatmospheric regimes, commercial aircraft, space-based laser communications, and in ground-based U.S. special operations missions.

Usman founded RSA in 2018 after serving for more than a decade in federal service with the U.S. intelligence community. Usman is originally from Honolulu, Hawaii where he grew up surfing the swells of Oahu, which naturally transitioned into snowboarding once he moved to the mainland.

“The spirit of the event is to give entrepreneurs an opportunity to make meaningful connections with investors, and this year was the best yet with outstanding pitches, investors from around the country, fresh snow at Taos Ski Valley, and, as always, tremendous energy throughout the day,” said Katie Rice, Founder of Ski Lift Pitch.

“Getting to know the founders of Ski Lift Pitch, and the philosophy behind the event, was especially rewarding to me,” said Usman. “Creating shared memories on the slopes with adventure-focused investors truly will help entrepreneurs in their fundraising efforts.”

About CNM Ingenuity

CNM Ingenuity supports a new approach to learning that provides accelerated educational and training opportunities in key workforce areas including technology and healthcare, wrap-around support for aspiring entrepreneurs, and cooperative ventures that foster economic development and job creation. Since being established in 2014, CNM Ingenuity has made tremendous progress on behalf of Central New Mexico Community College and the economy. Learn more at

About Outdoor Recreation Division of the New Mexico Economic Development Department

The Outdoor Recreation Division aims to increase the overall mental and physical well-being of New Mexicans through the power of outdoor recreation, enabling residents throughout the state to hold jobs that afford them dignity, joy, and stability. Learn more at

About Rhea Space Activity

Rhea Space Activity (RSA) is an astrophysics company that ideates and creates high-risk / high-reward research-and-development concepts to support U.S. national security objectives. RSA has developed various technologies in the fields of autonomous navigation, infrared satellites, directed energy, artificial intelligence, Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR), astro-particle physics, small satellites, cislunar operations, intelligence collection, autonomous underwater vehicles, and for the F35 Lightning II. Learn more at