Defense Unicorns Secures $35M to Accelerate AI and Software Adoption in National Security

Defense Unicorns Secures $35M to Accelerate AI and Software Adoption in National Security

Defense Unicorns, a software startup providing open source software and AI capabilities for national security systems, has raised $35 million in a Series A funding round led by Sapphire Ventures and Ansa Capital. The company, which was founded by early leaders of the Department of Defense's software factories, has bootstrapped its way to nearly $30 million in annual revenue and has secured a large portfolio of work across the national security community.

The global landscape has changed, and to compete, the U.S. military must integrate and deploy new technology at speed. However, outdated technology, diverse compute environments, and the complexities of security and compliance standards have caused an unacceptable time lag, placing the country at risk for future conflicts. Defense Unicorns aims to solve these unique challenges experienced by the government by creating software that enables continuous delivery of software and AI applications in any environment, including air-gapped environments that are disconnected from the internet.

Rooted in the founders' beliefs in data independence, Defense Unicorns has developed a suite of open source projects to solve the technical hurdles that prevent the delivery of working AI and software tools. These projects include Zarf, LeapfrogAI, Pepr, and Lula, which provide capabilities such as continuous software delivery on disconnected networks, self-hosted generative AI, Kubernetes cluster management, and real-time insight into the configuration and compliance of deployed software.

Powered by these projects, Defense Unicorns currently offers three core capabilities as a service: Your App Your Environment (YAYE), Software Factory, and AI for National Security. The company has deployed its AI for National Security capability across several classified environments, providing a suite of critical Generative AI features including translation, transcription, and summarization to support U.S. military operations across the globe. Defense Unicorns has also been awarded a $300 million Department of Defense-wide contract to accelerate software and GenAI solutions in classified and air gap environments and has supported dozens of programs across the U.S. Air Force and Navy with its Software Factory platform.

"Driven by a number of factors, including a rise in global conflict and the DoD’s recognition of its technological shortcomings, defense tech has never been more important for U.S. National Security," said Jai Das, President and Partner at Sapphire Ventures. "I’m proud to partner with Rob and the Defense Unicorns team as they help revolutionize defense tech, providing practical, scalable solutions to complex technology problems that will have a generational impact."

Defense Unicorns has over 125 employees and is currently hiring for a number of roles, including product managers, data scientists, platform engineers, software engineers, and more. The company plans to use this initial round of funding to enhance and expand its mission-focused capabilities and double its team size in the coming year.

"Over the last decade, the US Government has emerged as one of the largest consumers of technology, globally, with information, data and software increasingly becoming key points of leverage on and off the battlefield," said Marco DeMeireles, Co-Founder and Managing Partner at Ansa Capital. "Having stood up Platform One, the first DoD-wide approved managed DevSecOps platform, Rob and his team are best suited to solve this immense and complex challenge. I'm looking forward to joining the Board as we work towards our shared mission of enabling all agencies to better leverage modern software and methodologies."

As the DoD's funding for IT, cyber, and AI initiatives continues to grow, with over $58.5 billion allocated for FY24, Defense Unicorns is poised to play a pivotal role in shaping the future of national security technology. By breaking down barriers to modern software and AI adoption, the startup is empowering the U.S. military to maintain its strategic edge in an increasingly complex global landscape.

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