Helsing Becomes Europe's Largest AI Defense Unicorn with $223 Million Funding Round

Helsing Becomes Europe's Largest AI Defense Unicorn with $223 Million Funding Round
Helsing co-founders: (left)Gundbert Scherf, Niklas Köhler, Torsten Reil (right). Image Credit Greneral Catalyst

Munich-based AI company, Helsing, announced today it has raised €209 million ($223 million) in Series B funding, led by U.S. venture capital firm General Catalyst. The deal values Helsing at $1.8 billion post-money, making it the largest European AI defense technology startup.

The funding round comes amid surging investment in European defense startups focused on applying AI and autonomous systems to modernize military capabilities. Helsing is developing AI software for applications including electronic warfare, cybersecurity, and command and control systems.

Helsing says the new capital will support its expansion into France and the UK, in addition to its home market of Germany. It also plans to grow its partnerships with defense contractors and governments.

The company has moved swiftly from its 2021 founding to win major defense contracts, reflecting the urgent demand for rapidly deployable AI capabilities. In June, Helsing was selected along with partner Saab to upgrade the AI capabilities of Germany's Eurofighter jets. It also recently won a contract, together with consortium partners, to supply the AI backbone for the Future Combat Air System supported by France, Germany and Spain.

Helsing co-founder and CEO Torsten Reil stated that the funding round "is a vote of confidence in Europe” and Helsing’s mission to provide advanced AI capabilities to democratic nations.

The funding comes amid an increased focus on defense spending in Europe, which collectively exceeds $170 billion annually among countries like France, the UK, and Germany.

General Catalyst, known for investments in technology startups including Airbnb, cited Helsing's partnerships with industry and commitment to responsible AI development as major draws. The firm called Helsing a "category-defining software company building the future of European resilience in defense and artificial intelligence."

Swedish defense company Saab has also made a strategic $79.8 million investment for a 5% stake in Helsing. The companies have entered into a cooperation agreement to combine Helsing's AI capabilities with Saab's solutions. The partnership will initially focus on electronic warfare and surveillance systems for fighter jets and other applications.

Helsing says its approach is to partner, rather than disrupt, traditional defense contractors. It aims to bring software velocity and AI advancements to market rapidly by integrating with existing defense hardware systems.

The company emphasizes ethical considerations in developing AI technology for defense applications. It focuses on maintaining human oversight, transparency and explainability in its AI systems.

Helsing previously raised a $109 million Series A round in 2021 led by Spotify CEO Daniel Ek's investment company, Prima Materia. As Europe’s geopolitical landscape continues to evolve, Helsing's role in defense and AI appears to be more critical than ever. With this new round of funding and a strong partnership with Saab, Helsing is well-positioned to play an important role in shaping the future of European resilience.

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