Defense Unicorns raises $35 million to enhance national security through open-source software

Defense Unicorns has raised a $35 million Series A funding round led by Sapphire Ventures and Ansa Capital.

Founded by early leaders of the Department of Defense’s software factories – a grassroots Air Force initiative turned mandate to accelerate secure, agile software development practices – Defense Unicorns enables continuous delivery of software and AI applications in any environment. Most notably, the company’s technology is able to deploy to air gapped environments – environments that are typically disconnected from the internet.

Leveraging Defense Unicorns’ solutions, national security systems can quickly adopt modern technologies wherever the mission happens, whether in space, undersea or elsewhere. Growing defense budgets reflect demand for these modern capabilities, as the Department’s funding for IT and cyber, which includes such efforts as cloud adoption and software modernization, is set to increase to over $58.5 billion in FY24 with an additional $1.8 billion specifically planned for AI and machine learning.

“The global landscape has changed. To compete, the U.S. military must integrate and deploy new technology at speed. We know this. But from firsthand experience, it’s still nearly impossible to deploy desperately needed capabilities on any mission-relevant timeline. Outdated technology, diverse compute environments, and the complexities of security and compliance standards have caused an unacceptable time lag, placing our country at risk for future conflicts,” said Rob Slaughter, CEO of Defense Unicorns. “At Defense Unicorns, we create software to solve the unique challenges experienced by the government.”

Rooted in the founders’ beliefs in data independence, the company solves the technical hurdles that prevent the delivery of working AI and software tools through a suite of open source projects they have created. These include:

  • Zarf: A tool that enables continuous software delivery on disconnected networks.
  • LeapfrogAI: A self-hosted generative AI platform designed for environments that are disconnected or with limited processing and storage.
  • Pepr: A tool that manages and modifies resources in a Kubernetes cluster via easy to read and write configuration modules.
  • Lula: A tool that provides real-time insight into the configuration and compliance of deployed software to help accelerate and maintain accreditations.

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. To date, Defense Unicorns 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.

The company 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. In the coming year, the company will use this initial round of funding to enhance and expand its mission-focused capabilities.

“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. One of the companies leading the charge in helping the DoD modernize its software stack is Defense Unicorns,” 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.”

“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. Today’s servicemen and women desire an ability to seamlessly deploy and update cloud-native applications—with or without an internet connection—and leverage the latest in AI technology, but often lack the technology infrastructure to do so,” said Marco DeMeireles, 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,” concluded DeMeireles.

More about

Don't miss