Thursday, June 17, 2021

Anduril & Defense Tech

The last year has demonstrated repeatedly the lack of societal preparation for multiple forms of threats to our country and world. Examples of this include issues responding to the COVID pandemic, the cybersecurity ransomware attacks on critical US infrastructure such as our energy systems and food supply, and of course the ongoing issue of climate change[1]. In parallel, new technologies are increasingly being used by antagonistic groups and countries for terror and war. Drone attacks on international oil pipelines and their use in regional conflicts has increased dramatically in the last few years, as have drone related incidents and accidents around airports, sports stadiums, and infrastructure such as power plants. 

Just as old incumbent institutions with little to no organizational renewal impacted our ability to respond to COVID, the defense industry has undergone significant consolidation over the last 30 years. There has not been a new defense technology company of any scale to directly challenge these incumbents in many decades (SpaceX and Palantir are obviously sizeable ~20-year old “newer” entrants in adjacent areas).

One exciting newer defense technology company that is working on building capabilities around sensor-based awareness and anti-drone activities is Anduril. I am excited to lead their latest round of funding. Anduril will use this funding in part to drive new acquisitions, as well as an ongoing ramp in their team and business. Their main solutions currently include a series of sensor networks, towers, drones, and powerful software that ties it all together - whose potential uses include protecting our troops on base, defending our energy infrastructure, combating wildfires, stopping human traffickers, creating a “virtual border” (a rare bipartisan idea), and fighting drug cartels. Many of these potential uses can directly save lives.

In addition to Anduril, a number of large technology incumbents (such as Salesforce, Microsoft, and Amazon) and leading startups (Applied Intuition, SpaceX, Scale.AI, and others) continue to provide their technologies to enable our defense and intelligence services.

To try to understand this world better, and as part of investing further in Anduril, I interviewed a number of former high level individuals involved with our country’s defense and related policy. A number of people told me they found these interviews interesting, so I am sharing them here[2]. 

I had a number of takeaways from these conversations. One of my biggest takeaways was the degree to which national defense was truly a bipartisan issue. Democrats and Republicans both believe that technology can be used to protect our families, friends, and neighbors at home as well as members of our military and intelligence communities overseas. Both sides believe that transparency into what is happening around the world is critical, and technologies that increase that transparency are ones we should invest in. And both sides agree that the days of America’s military having the best technology may be coming to a close, and that “business as usual” won’t save us. “I think we need a better ecosystem to work within, Retired Major General Vincent Coglianese told me. “You need to have this nimble relationship with technology.” He, and everyone else I talked to, believe that Anduril is an important player in that shift.

A subset of conversations are excerpted here with permission of the people I interviewed.

  1. Eric Snelgrove, former Professional Staff Member with the House Armed Services Committee and Minority Staff Lead of the Intelligence, Emerging Threats and Capabilities (IETC) Subcommittee.

  2. Katie Wheelbarger, former Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs.

  3. Retired Major General Vince Coglianese, the former Commander of Marine Corps Installations Command.

  4. Tina Chong, former Army Captain.

Read the interviews here.


[1] I am actively looking to invest in Climate Change related companies, with an emphasis on software and data analytics related tooling, or carbon capture technologies.

[2] These discussions have been edited down for clarity and conciseness.