At Andreessen Horowitz’s recent American Dynamism summit, Hadrian founder and CEO Chris Power painted a picture of the country in peril. “I’m here to talk to you about an existential risk to the future of the Republic and how Hadrian is trying to solve it,” he began.
His words – a mix of rationalism and Marcus Aurelius – were not out of place at the event, which brought together a blend of investors, founders, policymakers and other Washington officials to discuss issues facing the country. A notable number of talks were related to defense and national security, in line with the American Dynamism team’s investment portfolio, which includes bets on defense tech startups like Hadrian, Anduril and Shield AI.
Just a few years ago, many investors thought that cutting a check for a defense-first startup was a proposition that simply didn’t make sense. The tides have clearly shifted: a16z is one of many firms that’s taken a stronger interest in defense and national security. PitchBook data supports this warming to defense tech. From January to October last year, VC-backed firms injected $7 billion into aerospace and defense companies, a massive growth that stands in sharp contrast to the relative sluggishness in other sectors. Some deals in recent months include Anduril’s $1.4 billion Series E; Shield AI’s $225 million Series E; and Vannevar Labs’ $75 million Series B.
There are many reasons for this uptick in interest in defense tech, but driving all of them is a new, realist vision that’s spread among some technologists and venture capitalists. It sees global antagonisms threatening the stability of Pax Americana; it sees the United States rotting from the inside out due to bloat and lethargy. As a result, the Silicon Valley mentality has returned to its defense roots, embracing the role that venture-funded startups can play in maintaining America’s military dominance and technological supremacy around the world.
“If you believe in democracy, democracy demands a sword,” a16z general partner David Ulevitch said in a recent interview with TechCrunch. And Silicon Valley will be where it is forged.