Defense Ventures


  • Frontier Development Lab brings AI engineers to work together from the effects of climate change to predicting space weather, from improving disaster response, to identifying meteorites that could hold the key to the history of our universe. The lab is hosted by the SETI Institute and NASA Ames Research Center.

Corporate VCs

  • Airbus Ventures – aerospace, cryptocurrency, materials, tough tech
  • Boeing HorizonX – Mobility, AI, IOT, Security
  • Lockheed Ventures
  • Scout Ventures – AR, AI, Drones, Mobility, IoT, Cyber, Enterprise
  • In-Q-Tel – focuses on intelligence community, tough tech investor
  • LunarX – hosted by Google


  • Second Front Systems “accelerate delivery of emerging commercial technologies to U.S. and Allied warfighters.”
  • FedTech
  • One Defense – Government startup consultant for YC 500 and Techstars
  • 500 Startups
  • Lemnos Labs – Hardware

Traditional LPs

  • Lux Capital is a prominent deep tech/tough tech VC based in NYC.
  • *Team 8 “is an Israeli cybersecurity foundry focused on developing disruptive technologies and building category-leading companies that challenge the biggest problems in cybersecurity today.”
  • 8VC – Former Palantir founder, Firm has lobbyist on staff
  • Khosla Ventures seeks to invest into cost-effective, scalable inventions, or black swans of energy invention. This medium post captures the vision well.
  • C5 Capital “is a specialist investment firm that exclusively invests in the secure data ecosystem including cybersecurity, cloud infrastructure, data analytics, and space.” They also launched C5 Impact Partners – “It is our first fund focused on data-driven technologies that support inclusivity, safety, resilience and sustainability of cities and communities.”
  • General Catalyst -Anduril Investor
  • ForgePoint Capital – Cybersecurity
  • Harpoon
  • Andreesen Horowitz – Anduril Series B Investor
  • Lightspeed – enterprise, security, citadel defense anti-drone company
  • Founders Fund – government, Trae is early Palantir, co-founder of Anduil
  • Trident Capital – Enterprise, IT, Cyber, Cloud
  • Acero Capital – Enterprise Software, co-invested with In-Q-Tel
  • Crosslink Capital
  • Bessemer Venture Partners – Consumer, Enterprise, Healthcare
  • Khosla Ventures
  • DCM
  • Shasta Ventures
  • DCM
  • Shasta Ventures
  • Softbank
  • Arsenal Growth – Enterprise, Commerce/Logistics, Healthcare
  • The Engine – tough tech investor
  • New Enterprise Association – tough tech
  • SOSV – runs HAX and Indie Bio. Focus on hardware and has Chinese chapter

Physics of the Future: How Science Will Shape Human Destiny and Our Daily Lives by the Year 2100

Physics of the Future is one of Michio Kaku’s earlier books of his series of his forecasts of the future. I really enjoyed this book – as he dissects each industry into each layers, he goes in depth into each industry with a rules as a physicist under fundamental laws of physics. As he begins the book, he warns the readers – everything we will read about are projections are the future.

The storyboards he envisions is quite extraordinary. From his own experiences and from the tech evolution he witnesses, he shows us the economic and physical possibilities of the future, for instance, how room temperature semiconductors can enable flying cars. He does explain the tech limitations as he goes into each sector, but I did wish he went into the unintended consequences of each tech today.

Instead of writing about how robots might gain consciousness some day, I wished he could write more about issues we are currently facing, such as the AI’s flawed algorithm giving us biased results. Data trust and privacy issues.

This book takes you on quite a journey. There is energy and enthusiasm radiating from the book as a quantum physicist in the future that he sees. I am certainly looking forward to reading his other books.

Disaster Security: Using Intelligence and Military Planning for Energy and Environmental Risks

This is a book recommended by a close friend who is also a climate scientist. Chad Briggs and Miriam Matejova takes the audience interested in scenarios, simulations, and disaster planning through different exercises developed under the umbrella of the US Department of Energy and the US Air Force.

Militaries often use war games and simulation exercises for scenario planning. These exercises can be very applicable for energy and environmental security scenarios as well. These scenarios present different security challenges and their potential cascading impacts on global systems – from the melting of glaciers in the Andes to hurricanes in New York and Hawaii, and on to hybrid disasters, cyberoperations and geoengineering can carry very high risks.

The authors emphasize the very “human” element to tackling climate change and that the records and historical accounts and modeling are no longer paint a complete picture. Although this is a rather new approach, it has a close overview of the lessons and solutions to the world’s pressing energy and environmental security challenges.

“We wanted to emphasize that it’s not just about climate change. That’s a really important factor but it’s there in the background. Human actions as well are really important. These aren’t just natural disasters; these depend upon human actions and human vulnerabilities”

Some of the lessons learned were really interesting. He notes, local knowledge is far superior to the technical and published reports or effective strategies to cover for institutional blind spots in training.

In today’s networked world, environmental disasters are becoming more likely with the traditional notions of hard security becoming increasingly challenged. I thought this book was quite enlightening and a good one to have in the toolbox – for partnership practitioners – it is increasingly important to be ready to be ready for the unpredictable and extreme – to be aware of the vulnerable and complexities and to be flexible in thought – whether they be disasters or climate adaptations.

Office of Analytics: The Silicon Valley of State Dept.

Office of Analytics was definitely one of the coolest offices I feel lucky to have worked at the State Department. We had the open spaces, the tech tools, the Macbooks, and the nerf guns. We were housed under the Office of Public Engagement, but the difference was that we engaged the foreign audiences, not domestic. We helped our diplomats in DC and embassies to develop interesting projects or help supplement their diplomacy objectives by building digital networks and partnerships with foreign communities.

I sat in the role of editing our communications products and strategizing our marketing efforts. Our foundational areas of experiences included data science and analytics drawing from the private sector.

We also worked with outside vendors attending tech meet-ups such as DCode. Some of the tools we acquired tools for the Department included Crimson Hexagon and CrowdTangle. 

In the Spring of 2018 as President Trump was about to head to the  North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Summit, we led a project with colleagues in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs to counter disinformation sponsored or owned by the non-state or Russian government.

Visualisation of the Russian amplification network

Russia sponsors content through state or cyber-enabled platforms through RT, Sputnik, Life, and Vkontake, a European online social media with Russian speakers. The messaging often questioned the legitimacy of NATO as an alliance.

My main job was to emphasize U.S. commitment to NATO in the lead-up to the NATO Summit and counter Kremlin-backed disinformation that undermine trust in NATO among key U.S. ally audiences in Western and Eastern European countries.

The project went on for 3 months with many different types of media in four different languages. I didn’t love having to be up and running in different time zones, but I really loved the types of experiments I could run on so many different platforms.

The more difficult part of the project came after – measuring the effect and the impact – we used keyword-based to capture the tone, the type of audience, the engagement, and the outlet analysis. The type of emotion that we got from the engagement was also very interesting.

A fun fact is that this office was born out of a backseat of a car conversation between Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton.

Since I left, Office of Analytics was rebooted into the Center for Analytics and the Global Engagement Center at State. Although it no longer remains as it is, I have very fond memories of it, and to me, it will always be remembered as the techiest office with the cool guns.

Protecting Our Country from Up Above: Updating the Satellite Imagery

So I was at an event by Peacetech Labs when I ran into then Senior Advisor at the Bureau of Arms Control, Verification, and Compliance. We ended up having a much longer conversation about a whole lot of things – quantum computing, innovation at State, and how folks sometimes did not even know how to use excel.

He was a visionary – dare I say – a rare kind at State. We became quite good friends. I was at the Office of Consular Affairs at the time, working on outreach and tech management. I specifically also managed the content, apps, and the ESRI map on the

So on the current website, the goal of Arms control is to “build cooperation among allies and partners in order to control the threat posed by weapons of mass destruction, their means of delivery, space and cyber capabilities, and conventional weapons…AVC is committed to working intensively for the development of strategic engagement for international security, partnering with U.S. allies and other agencies in fielding missile-defense capabilities for international missile defense cooperation, and promoting U.S. security in outer space.”

What this means is – that when the Secretary or the President shakes hand with Kim Jong-Un to dismantle nuclear missiles, this office is the one to verify dismantlement. Verified dismantlement in a nutshell is to obtain high confidence that the program no longer exists and that reconstitution will be difficult and likely to be detected relatively quickly or at least long before significant quantities of banned items are produced. In this sense, the dismantlement is called irreversible. 

Previous to my time, there was an Entrepreneur in Residence at AVC who had worked to bridge programs with tech vendors and embassies. He mentioned how satellite technologies had not been updated since the 60s.

Satellite images are a product of remote sensing. Remote sensing is a technology for sampling radiation and force fields to acquire and interpret geospatial data. Geospatial data are used to develop information about features, objects, and classes on earth’s land surface, oceans, and atmosphere. Remote-sensing exists today as an extremely sophisticated form of space photography which has developed in the last few decades.

It is crucial to begin monitoring from the early stages of detection from development, production, testing, or storage of non-conventional weapons. It can take a long time to verify the conditions set out in the treaties are satisfied.

The spread of nuclear weapons technology consist of a rainbow of decentralized, sometimes overlapping and sometimes fragmented systems of international agreements, informal arrangements, and national legislations. Not surprisingly, differences in national implementation and enforcement continue to frustrate efforts to keep dual-use goods and technologies out of proliferator hands. These implementation gaps, coupled with the sheer volume of global trade and commerce, have reduced the barriers to entry for intermediaries and created pathways for illicit procurement networks to exploit. 

While the weight of that demand is heavy on any verification system, the certain consequences of failure require no less. To that end, we will have to close disparities between treaty compliance and the existing verification means available to serve that function. Otherwise, the imbalance will continually jeopardize the shared nonproliferation and disarmament aspirations of this century. Strengthening verification standards and practice through modern technology will ultimately strengthen transparency and security inherent in the verification model and renew commitment to compliance. It will then serve not only as a catalyst to future agreement, but also enhance the certainty that those security challenges that nations choose to meet by agreement will not be illusory. 

How Venture Capital Impacts Defense: Conversation with Peter Thiel and Josh Wolfe

Harnessing and Securing American Innovation: How Venture Capital Impacts Defense

Josh Wolf is a co-founder of Lux Capital to “support scientists and entrepreneurs who pursue counter-conventional solutions to the most vexing puzzles of our time in order to lead us into a brighter future. The more ambitious the project, the better—like, say, creating matter from light.” Peter Thiel is a co-founder of PayPal, Palantir Technologies and Founders Fund. Plantir is an In-Q-Tel and Founder’s Fund-backed company.

Peter: By my count, there are only two companies that have been started since The Cold War, that are (1) focused on national security, and (2) have reached a billion-dollar valuation: SpaceX and Palantir. [4:00]

Peter: A lot of innovation gets driven by smaller companies. This is absolutely critical. When not many people are doing it— if you are one of the few who do it— there is a lot of opportunity. [4:25]

Josh: Strength comes in part from technological dominance. Technological dominance comes from brilliant engineers that are inventing cutting edge technologies. [6:20] 

Josh: Palmer Luckey, Trae Stephens, and Brian Schimpf [founders of Anduril Industries] are authentic engineers that are obsessed with technology. 

They are constantly thinking about: 

What does the warfighter need? 
Where is the white space? 
Where is the gap? 
What is China developing? 
What is Russia developing?
How can we put them [US warfighters] with the most cutting edge technologies out there?[6:35]

Josh: Many of these people [those inventing new technology] were inspired by Science Fiction. They are literally going back— 20 years into the annals of comic books and sci-fi movies— and saying it would be amazing if we had that. [7:00] 

Peter: If you can’t create a business that is worth a billion or more the venture capital model does not work that well. If you start a company that is worth $30 or $100 million that can be quite successful for the person who started that company. For a venture fund if that is the best we did we would be out of business. [9:40]

Have Palantir and SpaceX created a template for other startups to follow with the defense space? [Peter]: Well there is certainly proof that it can be done. In both cases, it took a wickedly long time. Close to a decade to start getting significant contracts from the US Military. In some ways, they were not conventionally venture fundable. [10:20] 

Josh: It helps to reduce market risk. You will have a lot of venture capitalists that say you are focused on the defense industry. The stereotypes of the defense industry are that the defense industry is slow-moving, bureaucratic, very political, they might not pick the best technology, they might instead give the contract the company they have been working with for the past 20 years, etc…So whatever you can do to eliminate that risk [is good]. [If not] It is like we are fighting with ourselves by not equipping the warfighters with the absolute best technology that is coming from some of these early companies. [14:30] 

Josh: The origins of Silicon Valley were in electronic warfare and defense. There is an aversion for people to want to work on defense-related things. That is a zeitgeist that is growing. [21:30]

Josh: I think there is a job society can do —and that is the retelling of a narrative that can galvanize some of the best and brightest to work on American defense. [23:10]

Peter: There is always this danger for a tech company to become overly bureaucratized. [29:49]

Josh: The one real edge you can have as an investor is a behavioral advantage. For us [at Lux Capital] that means having a longer time horizon than the average investor. We call this time arbitrage. If the average investor is looking for a signal of success in a year or two— and we are looking at something that might not give us a signal for 4 or 5 years —then by definition there will be fewer investors looking to fund what we are funding. 

The valuations will be lower— and if we are right —the returns for us and our investors will be higher. So we like to look at things that are further out which means they are riskier and more improbable to work. But when they do they work in a really big way. [30:46] 

State of the Space Industrial Base 2020

State of the Space Industrial Base 2020: A discussion on sustaining U.S. economic and military leadership in space 

In May 2020, NewSpace New Mexico hosted the Air Force Research Laboratory, the Defense Innovation Unit, the U.S. Space Force, and more than 120 experts from across government, industry, and academia for a four-day conference to discuss a comprehensive unified civil, commercial, and national security space strategy.  The workshop resulted in “State of the Space Industrial Base Report 2020,” detailing findings and recommendations from the workshop. A prior report was released in 2019.

The Aerospace Security Project has invited the authors of the report and industry experts to discuss the State of the Space Industrial Base. Both panels will include time for an audience Q&A.


Panel workshop focused on partnerships and six areas around the US industrial base. The 2020 State of the Space Industrial Base Workshop brought together more than 120 voices from  across the federal government, industry, and academia to assess the current health of the space industry  and to provide recommendations for strengthening that industrial base. 

  • Dr. Joel Mozer, U.S. Space Force
    • Space needs to be a part of our overall U.S. economy for three reasons: 
      • 1. It will shape the environment we operate in. 
      • 2. Many of the technological innovations in the space business are from entrepreneurs, and we must harness their innovation 
      • 3. We must overmatch our strategic competitors. 
    • We must work with  our allies to defend our capabilities and to ensure our technological capabilities are  abreast. We need to protect US interests and learn how the space can best take advantage of our most strategic domain. 
  • Col Eric Felt, Air Force Research Laboratory 
    • At AFRL, the technology in the commercial sector should be readily available to enable the space force. Sent three recommendations:
      • Protect, support and leverage commerce in space with emphasis in “protect” for our interest in space. Strengthen the technology pipeline – especially in the cislunar area. Maintain awareness and strengthen logistics to make the space capabilities more resilient not vulnerable
      • Government partnerships – make the US space economy thrive with public private partnership – “buy what we can – build what we must”- link up to commercial capabilities to meet  military and space force needs – for the hybrid architecture within our allies. A whole of government and nations approach to encourage spacial commercial activity – focus on the 80% of the investment from the industry and the commercial sector. We don’t want to do it the chinese way, but the US way to harness economic might.
      • Enabling new missions in space – tech is at its tipping point for the younger generation – AFRL – to make younger generation more excited about STEM and for careers in space 
      • A worldwide pandemic is effective, because it will affect the industry. Government should be the best customer we can be – accelerate the planned activities to allow the companies and system to work.
  • Dr. Tom Cooley, Air Force Research Laboratory
    • If we don’t figure out how to enable partnership with the private sector then we’ll lose our competitiveness 
      • We have to clarify our competitiveness 
      • Set standards and norms of behavior – provide leadership role for space 
      • Create partnerships 
    • Reinforced importance of logistics 
    • Prognosticating is  vital in industrial engagement. 
    • Noted the industry leaders (three generals) – General dynamics, General motors, and General electric to set forth the importance of industrial base is to the ecosystem 
  • Brig Gen Steve Butow, Defense Innovation Unit
    • DIU was founded in 1915 to increase access to commercial R&D 
    • The report is helpful because it asks the question – what are we doing today to secure America’s future – how do we want the 21st century to end? 
    • Re: acquisition – the paradigm of how we access space is changing. In the past, we had to have the government build rockets or satellites, but now we have a commercial ecosystem (ex. modular sensor/halo) to contract out the systemic/operational costs. Commercial technology is the best foundation to build friends and allies –  as we can exchange commercial information.
  • Therese Jones, Satellite Industry Association
    • The issue in engaging the next generation is getting students in brain trusts – like welders and manufacturers to come in – instead of math and science.
    • Stem ROTC is a great program, such as providing public scholarship
    • We are looking for economic parts in the USG (EXIM Bank) that support the transformational technologies government entities such as the space council colleague to view the tools they may have. 
  • Kevin O’Connell, Director, Office of Space Commerce at U.S. Department of Commerce 
    • Report emphasizes the note of protecting intellectual property – NIST/US Patent Office – key to help industry to achieve the shared goals
    • Need to anticipate better what is coming into the market 
    • Government could be more of an early adopter – to step into the market quickly to acquire technology
  • Bhavya Lal, Institute for Defense Analysis – Science and Technology Policy Institute
    • Government should have architecture in place for when technology is commercially available to transition the operations. Focus on systematic level coordination 
  • Mandy Vaughn, VOX Space
    • Clarifying the role and streamlining the approach for acquisition in the US is vital I.e., Speeding up licensing activity 
    • More aggressively define what it means to be a good client and clarify the  process – role, responsibility, and clarity of action 
    • Detailing how the country would be an end user to the acquisition process than what it would look like than through a total export would help to stream some of these efforts 
    • The speed of technology also introduces challenges

A VC from Israel’s High-Tech Intelligence Agency

I was fortunate to tune into a conversation with Liran Grinberg the Managing Partner of Team8 Capital, a global cybersecurity VC. He founded Team 8 in 2014 with the former Head of Israeli intelligence unit, 8200, Nadav Zafrir.

Team8’s company-building Foundry model de-risk process to venture investing, which is a process of “co-founding and serial-investing.” This led to serial investing into enterprises such as the creation of Sygnia ($250M exit with x60 return in 3 years) and Claroty, the world’s leader in Industrial Cybersecurity, backed by Rockwell AutomationSiemensSchneider ElectricGeneral MotorsBMW Group and more.

Here are three main advantages to having 8200 as the backbone of Team8.

So what is Unit 8200, and how does it contribute to the success of Team8 Capital?

  1. Level of talent is high. In Israel there is a mandatory service, and Unit 8200 is an elite military Israeli unit. The Team 8 leadership had access to the 1% of the 1%, those who had can new companies or can help build new companies. They were security entrepreneurs, cyber operating partners, and top talent from the largest unit within the military.
  2. Training is high. They start practicing leadership at a young age in the military and in technology. Under Team 8, under the Cyber and Data division, they build products and services to protect from cyber threats for data at scale.
  3. Culture is failure-tolerant and bottom-up. As 18, 19 year olds, they military entrants have their first year, second and third year to experiment with their new ideas each year. The graduates of the 8200 naturally fuel the tech ecosystem and the “startup nation.” 

Another really interesting aspect to the model of Team8 was the venture-building model and the formation of the “Team8 Village,” a critical mass of mass of talent through which a platform- they built out a process for entrepreneurs, engineers, and the investors.

Instead of focusing on commercial innovation, Team8 geared attention to the VC world and the intersection of academia, inventions, and startups and how to enable the backbone of startups to be more influential. As incumbents, enterprises have a lot of resources and access to the markets like understanding of the customers, they are bureaucratic and it is hard for them to innovate. Startups solve very concrete problems. They don’t have much resources or any research capability, and the success rate is very low. So Team8 chose to ask –  how can VCs act as a platform to solve difficult questions?

Team8 helps enterprises digitally transform. The companies or LPs become strategic investors.They don’t often have the muscle power to build something from scratch. So therefore, they passively help build the model to impact the type of problem to invest in the company.

For a gate of four hours, Team8 brings a challenge and companies together with engineers and the leadership. They bring together companies without lack the technical domain expertise from different geographies with a similar problem. For instance, they brought together data scientists and enterprises that 2 entrepreneurs usually would do in the garage. Team8 then conducts technical due diligence to help them grow.

If the problem is big enough, they build the company from scratch. They have 12 companies so far. This whole model – the platform team, village, the process – the investors, and everyone – has de-risked the investing process. 

Liran began working closely with founding teams on the ideation of Team8’s first companies, including Sygnia which was acquired by Temasek for $250M, and Claroty which is backed with $100M in funding, alongside Illusive Networks, Hysolate, Curv and more. Liran then transitioned to build and lead Team8’s Go-to-Market Group across its marketing, business development and market research functions, alongside the formation of a tightknit community of hundreds of C-level executives from the world’s leading enterprises. Combined, the two initiatives have become a powerful and differentiated advantage of Team8 in accelerating the success of its portfolio companies. 

His venture-building model with Israeli’s top talent is not only tackling the world’s greatest cyber security challenges, but also the backbone of the startup nation Israel is today.

Accelerating Tech for a Secure and Sustainable Future

When you think of working in the defense industry, you are right think about the arms – the military equipment, missiles, submarines, helicopters, etc. You’re quite right. So what it mean to be working in sustainable solutions in the world of defense tech?

The idea of working with the private sector for public applications is not new. In the past, most predominant forms of spending were through governmental entities such as DARPA  as R&D directorate and for weapons and military development – the Central Intelligence Agency’s publicly funded venture capital firm – In-Q-Tel or the Defense Innovation Unit.

Their sponsored research today became the technologies in our daily lives – the GPS, the Internet, the microwave, artificial intelligence, were all products from the State investments in technology.

Emerging technologies today have far outpaced the contracting model, where it now needs to move towards venture financing. The types of threats we are facing today including cyber – are outside the security contractor supply chain. The existing model’s ability to keep pace in future warfare is questionable.

The world of defense tech is an interesting one, where it extends beyond the traditional arms to encompass artificial intelligence (AI), quantum computers, cyber, robot, 5G (5th generation), urban air mobility (drones) mobile communication, and aerospace technologies.

At the current Center, we build a hub of: a) challenging technical problems; b) globally shared security challenges c) the intersection of commercial and public sectors, and d) with significant economic upside. We seek to work with venture capitalists accelerating dual-use early-stage technologies by facilitating technology transfer, and forming strategic alliances. 

We work with a network of highly vetted global advisors and partners, enabling us to map technologies to globally shared security challenges. We base our selection on performance, application of technologies to our partner’s mission capacities, and on complete alignment of interest. 

So how can defense tech serve as means for sustainability?

Aerospace and automobiles both rely on high technologies but are both major manufacturing industries relying on advanced materials, electronics, embedded systems, mechanical components, engines, and structures.

The basic idea is the same – you invest into new technologies that are more efficient, faster, smarter but to invest into clean technologies doesn’t also release toxic chemicals or with greater mitigation mechanisms to control GHG emissions.

The battery-powered electric airplanes are, believe it or not, already here. By investing into dual-use (commercial and public) technologies, clean technologies in the commercial sector could be bolstered with public sector investments. Through partnerships and their collaboration with domestic and foreign defense conglomerates, we can accelerate the progress of companies making a material difference in carbon emissions through increased incentives.

The vision is to invest into technologies to help advance the capabilities of the defense sector to have advanced technologies and to develop technologies that will enable the industry to shift from nonrenewable to renewable resources for energy and materials in a significant way – and thus will help to achieve a secure and sustainable future.