By Josh Wolfe
In the present we take for granted the past.
In science, we take for granted that we stand on the shoulders of giants — those who sought truth, or maybe fame, and in return gave us progress. We take for granted scientists the world over who, throughout history, sought safety and freedom on U.S. shores.
In family, we take for granted ancestors who sacrificed so much for us. In citizenship, we take for granted the good fortune that has us born or arrive into a country — itself built upon waves of arriving immigrants, all seeking somewhere better, escaping somewhere worse.
At Lux, we are a team of ethnically and religiously diverse Americans: Pakistani, Iraqi, Kashmiri, Australian, Vietnamese, Iranian, and Israeli; Jewish, Muslim, Christians, Catholics, and Atheists. We have very common values and very diverse views and we are grateful we live in a country where the freedom to debate is among our many freedoms that are defended.
Amid the distractions of daily divisive and rancorous politics, we take for granted the grand arc of history towards improving conditions and ever-expanding freedoms, rights and opportunities to ever more diverse people. And we take for granted the history of all those who have sacrificed — in hard-fought wars, foreign and civil — for ideas and ideals greater than themselves to give us progress.
In high-growth technology, from radio and radar to satellites and semiconductors, from lasers and rockets to GPS and voice recognition — we take for granted that so much of it came directly from demands in defense.
Lux has long funded founders and technologists advancing capabilities useful for our defense, including drones on land, sea, and air (Saildrone, Aria, AirMap, Hangar); satellites and rockets (Planet, Kymeta, Orbital Insight, Astranis, Relativity); semiconductors (Mythic, Everspin, Flex Logix); artificial intelligence (Clarifai, Primer); radar (Echodyne); and perimeter security (Evolv).
And we take for granted that everything we and our diverse and often foreign-born entrepreneurs get to do in this country all depends on its very strong defense. We can invent technologies that solve vast challenges in healthcare, energy, transportation, manufacturing, and computing. We can recruit talent the world over. We can rely on a stable currency and the ability to access highly mature and efficient capital markets. We can assemble complex supply chains, while sourcing and selling products in dozens of foreign countries. We rely on rule of law to protect inventions and contracts. All of this is possible because our national security remain steadfast.
The people who defend us civilians and our civil rights demand and deserve to be advantaged against those who have threatened us or would. We believe a strong defense serves as a strong deterrence — especially deterrence against the ambitions of others who probe for weakness of which to take advantage. Technology plays a critical role in providing the decisive advantage in global affairs. And we believe the virtue of a strong defense, especially against serious threats, is ultimately a moral one: to help reduce human suffering.
There is a big moral dimension to defense. While many foreign adversaries have no separation between military and civilian affairs, in the U.S., civilian authorities including Congress and the courts — the very democratic institutions the military helps protect — also control the military. Policies and laws rooted in responsible ethical debates also play a critical role. We have witnessed firsthand lawyers overseeing Special Operations prohibiting actions in complex situations that would violate such morally-anchored policies, even if taking those actions would have meant mission success. We also know that a strong defense also means a strong defense of our allies and thus having a foreign policy does not mean having a policy against foreigners. The great advantage of the United States, in all of its imperfections, is a system that allows and insists on vigorous informed public debate around decisions for military actions — especially when human life is put in harm’s way. There should be no debate that those on the frontlines should ever be technologically disadvantaged.
Meanwhile, two circumstances make the time right for an ambitious, technologically-advantaged entrant: (1) the rise of foreign adversaries’ technological capabilities, and (2) the waning of domestic support for the military from our most technologically capable companies. Over the past 20 years, foreign adversaries seeking to undermine the dominance of U.S. influence have — through espionage, intense investment and high prioritization of science and engineering training — closed the technological lead the United States once firmly held. For a variety of reasons (including now-known foreign information operations designed to stoke domestic moral outrage), a zeitgeist has grown among U.S. technologists against assisting our military. Leading technology companies facing employee protests have declined to help our military, while often simultaneously assisting foreign ones. This has created a significant challenge and opportunity.
The brightest, most inspired, inventive and creative engineers and technologists do not actively seek to go work for the old-guard defense contractors — often bureaucratic, sclerotic and unimaginative. Instead they want to work for other inspired, inventive and creative engineers and technologists. This is why we invested in Anduril.
We invested from the very first round of Anduril and have invested very substantially in this most recent round. We invested because we believe the founders in Brian, Joe, Matt, Palmer, and Trae are on a mission to create a necessary and historically important and inventive technology company in defense — listening to the women and men on the frontlines, solving the hardest technical challenges and providing them with a decisive advantage. We invested so that we could also be invested in the ethical conversations that will inevitably ensue as new complex technologies emerge, so that our voice can help positively influence how and where they may be responsibly used. And we invested so that we can help protect the women and men who help protect our daily lives — and to never take them for granted. The home of the free, because of the brave.