As Steve Blank has documented in his “Secret History of Silicon Valley”, the origin of the American high-technology industry traces back nearly a century to the creation of such critical defense technologies as radar, electronic navigation, and satellites. Continuing that heritage, many major Valley companies over the last 50 years have played critical roles in supporting our government’s defense and intelligence missions. That the United States has historically been the world leader in technology has reinforced our national security, and our national security has made our country and our industry peaceful and prosperous.
Today, as software eats the world, technology know-how is being democratized faster than ever before. As a result, other countries — some of whom leapfrogged the Internet era straight to mobile, cloud, and AI — are racing to deploy today’s advanced technology on multiple fronts, including defense, in some cases faster and more aggressively than the United States.
Will the U.S. continue to lead the technological way in defense? This incredibly important question has repercussions for our society along many dimensions. Will we be able to defend our people, and our allies, against new forms of attack? Will we be able to prevent harm to the brave men and women who serve in our defense and intelligence agencies? Will we be able to protect and defend our national infrastructure, including our cities, our hospitals, our power grid, and the Internet itself? And will we be able to lead the way globally in setting norms for acceptable use of new and powerful technologies such as artificial intelligence?
Just as the software revolution has completely changed the structure of the computer industry, from mainframes to smartphones and from punch cards to the cloud, I believe we are now seeing the creation of a new generation of Silicon Valley-style defense vendors that can move faster and smarter, and specialize in applying the leading edge of modern technology in original ways. We at Andreessen Horowitz have already been proudly funding companies in this space, such as Shield AI, an AI company co-founded by a former Navy SEAL, which today makes artificially intelligent, autonomous drones that see, reason about, search, and clear spaces to protect military service members in the field.
And today, we are proud to announce our newest defense investment, Anduril Industries. Anduril is a defense product company that builds creative, cost-effective technology to aid those who serve on the front lines defending our nation and its interests. Anduril’s core technologies include artificial intelligence, autonomous systems, sensor fusion and their uses on the front lines of operations. They focus on applying their technology to defense, law enforcement, and securing critical infrastructure.
One unique aspect of Anduril is that while they are a defense contractor, they actually take on all the research and development (R&D) risk themselves, before selling to government. This is a significant shift in the way things have “always been done” because the U.S. government –taxpayers — take on all the funding and R&D risk in the form of “cost-plus” contracting, where contractors are paid a guaranteed profit, regardless of cost. With Anduril, the U.S. government not only saves this money but diversifies its portfolio of the best defense technologies.
Use cases for Anduril’s perimeter-defense drone and sensor systems include protecting troops on base, fighting drug cartels, defending energy resources, combating wildfires, and stopping human traffickers. Many of these use cases will directly save lives — the lives of our service men and women, the people they protect, and innocent civilians caught in the middle.
Anduril sells technology directly to the U.S. government, including the U.S. military, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and U.S. allies. Additionally, Anduril works with commercial customers that have similar needs like securing pipelines, nuclear power facilities, and other critical infrastructure. There are some in our industry who view serving such agencies and missions as controversial. We do not. Regardless of our individual political beliefs, we all benefit from the work of the men and women in these agencies and the danger in which they put themselves daily. The least we can do is work to give back by building technologies that help them accomplish their missions more effectively and more safely. There are also a lot of talented people in Silicon Valley who want to work on these missions.
And so that’s why my partner David Ulevitch and I are pleased to announce our Series B investment in Anduril, alongside their existing investors Founders Fund and General Catalyst. As with all of our investments, this is a bet on not just the technology (breathtaking) and the market (enormous) but also the people (outstanding). Palmer Luckey is a founder and technology visionary we are proud to be backing for the second time, after Oculus. Brian Schimpf and Matt Grimm bring deep expertise in defense and intelligence technology from Palantir. Joe Chen supplies valuable military experience and cutting-edge technological expertise. And Trae Stephens is both an expert investor and an expert in national defense.
We’re thrilled to partner with Anduril on this incredibly important venture and mission.
I believe in the United States of America. I believe in a strong national defense. And I believe in Anduril.