“We have a plan to bring the unimaginable, the stuff of dreams, to the world.” Those passionate words were said by Tom DeLonge during the formal launch of the To the Stars Academy of Arts and Science (TTS-AAS, which always reminded me of ‘tits and ass’ whenever I saw the acronym) on October 11, 2017.
I remember watching the live streaming in which DeLonge shared the microphone with other members of his new enterprise –including Luis Elizondo who was yet to become UFOlogy’s new sensation. I remember thinking the TED-like format chosen for the presentation felt so odd, seeing how there was no live audience on the stage.
That emptiness made the promises uttered by DeLonge and his associates even more difficult to digest: they were talking about uncovering the decades-long secret on UFOs, and proving to the public once and for all we were not alone in this world; they were also talking about developing brand new technologies in propulsion and aerospace that would revolutionize transportation in ways that would put Star Trek to shame –in essence, they were talking about building a freaking flying saucer.
And to bring that unimaginable dreamstuff to the world, they needed our money.
TTS-AAS’s plan: To issue 10 million stocks set at a speculative value of US$5.00 (we’ll get back to this) and offer them to the public, demanding a minimum investment of US$200.00. TTS-AAS was not going to be a typical company, DeLonge explained. It was going to be a “public benefit corporation,” which means it would not be solely driven by the pursuit of maximizing the profit of shareholders –a public benefit corporation is NOT a non-profit company, though, and its owners will still demand the company to make money eventually.
$50 million dollars?? That could have been seen as either the biggest jackpot in the history of UFOlogy, or chump change when it comes to the aerospace industry (Elon Musk started SpaceX with $100 millions of his own money). The apparent problem from the get-go is that To the Stars was born as a hybrid (pun intended) with an Entertainment division and a Science/Aerospace division. The Entertainment division would produce mass-media content (books, motion pictures, documentaries) that would educate the public about the reality of UFOs, while providing fundings for the Aerospace the division which would attempt to recreate (and profit from) UFO technologies, and vice versa. This approach seemed not only unlikely, but suspicious, because it was suggestive that one of the goals behind TTS-AAS was perception management –i.e. how you influence the public opinion and expectations of what UFOs may or may not be. The fact that most of the board members of the brand new company came from the Intelligence world wasn’t exactly reassuring either –seasoned UFO buffs were quick to remember what happened to Paul Bennewitz when he was fed disinformation at the behest of the US Air Force…
Back then I remember how a few friends of mine were joking about pooling the 200 bucks needed to invest on TTS, just so we could receive ‘inside’ reports from the company. We never did, but nevertheless I kept checking on the company’s website regularly, to see if they would be able to reach their $50m goal –even despite the fact that many people were quick to point out how it was a bad financial idea, given how most of the initial money raised by TTS would be used to pay the loans made to Tom DeLonge himself, through one of his other companies (Our Two Dogs, Inc.) –never mind the fact that reverse-engineering (purported) alien technology is something that would likely take centuries, and involve *all* the best minds in the world.
Time went by. DeLonge gave an atrocious interview on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast –how atrocious? Enough for him to be replaced by Luis Elizondo, who then became the new face for To the Stars, and the one who started to do the conference and radio show circuit expected of a new ‘celebrity’ in the UFO subculture, while Tom was sent to the showers (unofficially, of course). By then the existence of the AATIP/AAWSAP Pentagon program was disclosed thanks to the New York times article in December of 2017. True believers were jumping up and down with joy for having the chance of seeing their politically incorrect hobby mentioned by regular news outlets –the paradox of ‘Disclosure’: Mainstream media and politicians are despised and accused of abetting the ‘UFO cover up’, yet the deepest fantasy of the UFO enthusiast is seeing those same politicians admitting to the existence of aliens on the front cover of the New York Times (“fake news! unless they say what I wanna hear”)
Because of the renewed –albeit brief– attention on the topic (damn you, Kanye!!) UFO buffs started to revere DeLonge with platitudes reserved for the Second Coming. But money talks and blurry videos walk, and despite how mildly interesting was to see Cmdr. David Fravor talk about his encounter with an aerial object that surpassed the capabilities of his F-18, or the more interesting connections between the AATIP/AAWSAP program and the infamous Skinwalker ranch, all the publicity barely made a dent when it came to the donations –um, excuse me! investment— obtained by To the Stars. I remember it took them a looong time to surpass that first $1 million threshold, and eventually they stopped showing how much money they had raised altogether on their webpage.
Which brings us to October of 2018, almost exactly one year after TTS-AAS was officially launched. Over at Ars Technica, Eric Berger –who doesn’t seem to have much of an interest in the topic of UFOs– wrote an article alerting on how To the Stars was $37 million dollars in ‘debt’, based on a recent filing the company had made with the US Securities and Exchange Commission. The staggering figure made more than a few cynics in the UFO blogosphere to joke whether it had been caused by DeLonge’s rockstar-like expensive pastimes.
More neutral and financially minded people took a look at the filing in question, and quickly pointed out Berger had misrepresented the figures. The $37,432,000 were marked as ‘accumulated deficit’ and not ‘debt’. I’m not an economist and balancing a checkbook makes my head hurt, so I tried to research what ‘accumulated deficit’ actually means. According to accountingtools.com, “an accumulated deficit is a negative retained earnings balance. This deficit arises when the cumulative amount of losses experienced and dividends paid by a business exceeds the cumulative amount of its profits. An accumulated deficit signals that an entity is not financially stable [emphasis mine], since it requires additional funding.” That would be pretty damning for DeLonge and To the Stars; however this accounting website is clear to specify that accumulated deficits are not unusual when it comes to startup companies, “where substantial initial losses are expected before sales begin to take off.” Remember, TTS not only claims to be a startup tech(ish) company, but also a public benefit corporation, meaning profit is not their prime directive.
So what caused their humongous deficit then? Basically, it was their own fault: when To the Stars drafted their preliminary offering of public shares in August of 2017, they arbitrarily set a price of $5.00 per share (with 10 million shares issued, that would have gotten them their goal of $50 million dollars). DeLonge was basically proposing a game of high-risk/high-payoff to his potential donors –I mean, investors!— and telling them “get in now, and boy are you gonna cash in when our stock goes through the roof!”
Unfortunately, for that to happen they actually need to have a tangible product, not just a new sequel to Sekret Machines or an app that could help crunch through UFO-related data, which was one of the proposals during their 2017 launch –and unless the app was as fun to play with as Candy Crush, I don’t see that as a money-making solution either.
How are they going to obtain that tangible (and profitable) product, then? Through their A.D.A.M. research project, and that’s where EarthTech International –and Hal Puthoff– come in.
According to TTS-AAS’s semi-annual report:
In August 2018, the company announced its flagship research program: the A.D.A.M. Research Project. The A.D.A.M. Research Project, an acronym for Acquisition & Data Analysis of Materials, is an academic research program focused on exotic materials for use in technology innovation. The company engaged ETI to prepare a plan and advise on the collection and scientific evaluation of materials samples the company obtained through reliable reports [emphasis mine] of advanced aerospace vehicles of unknown origin (the SOW-MSSA).
How much is DeLonge betting they have obtained ‘reliable’ material samples of unknown origin? Not a lot, as it turns out: The report indicates TTS granted EarthTech $35,000 dollars to analyze the materials. Combined with an additional $25,000 dollars also paid to Puthoff for the development of ‘beamed energy propulsion systems’, and if looks as DeLonge is only devoting around 1% of their initial goal of $50 million dollars in the actual hard sciences behind alien artifacts –or should we say ‘alleged‘ alien artifacts? Because it could very well be that most of the materials (skeptics would say all of them) obtained from witnesses are nothing but junk despite all the drama utilized to drive the samples all the way to Austin, where Puthoff’s offices are located.
Unless they are planning to obtain the materials from somewhere else…
There are many other interesting tidbits in the recent TTS filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, including the confirmation that they only managed to raise $1,026,000 of funding from its offering of public shares, and their web page currently shows only 2547 investors so far –which goes to show that, despite all their longing for ‘disclosure’, UFO buffs still fail to put their money where their mouth is.
But perhaps the most interesting section in the whole text, is this one:
Currently, the company does not have any commitments or assurances for additional capital, other than disclosed above, nor can the company provide assurance that such sources of funds will be available to it on favorable terms, or at all. If, after utilizing the existing sources of capital available to the company, further capital needs are identified and the company is not successful in obtaining the financing, it could potentially be forced to curtail its existing or planned future operations.
To clarify, To the Stars does not have a $37,000,000 debt –something Tom was quick to whine about on an Instagram post that has since been removed. Ars Technica’s article was nevertheless updated and replaced the word ‘debt’ with ‘deficit’.
That does not mean the company is not in financial hot water, mind you. They still have amassed quite a few i.o.u’s from DeLonge’s other companies –mainly Our Two Dogs, although they also need to pay Angels and Airwaves royalties for the use of Tom’s image (!)– and, like they themselves admit in the filing, the only way they can stay afloat is by “raising additional capital through debt and/or equity transactions.”
“Maybe To the Stars is a chess move by one faction involved in the UFO mystery, “ proposed one of my colleagues when we were commenting on the Ars Technica article last Monday. Which would make the company’s ulterior motives something that has nothing to do with making an actual profit some day, and DeLonge nothing but a pawn in a high-dimension game with *a lot* to lose if TTS doesn’t bring up something to wow potential investors real soon.
“The only way to do this is if we do it in the public realm,” said DeLonge during his quasi-TED presentation, in October of 2017. One year later, UFOs have indeed lost some of their former stigma in the eyes of mainstream media –the same mainstream media that’s more interested in reporting about Kanye’s visit to the White House, mind you, than on the IPCC’s alarming report on the imminent consequences of global warming. Perhaps UFO researcher Grant Cameron was right all along, in that public opinion on the topic will only change when people find themselves willing to mobilize in the streets for it. But if people have better things to protest right now, then that also means they have other things to invest their money on.