Defense Tech Ventures: A Generational Opportunity for Venture Investors
For many years, venture investing and defense technology seemed incompatible due to long acquisition cycles and unfavorable economics for defense tech startups. However, the relationship between U.S. defense and Silicon Valley is undergoing a profound transformation, creating new opportunities for venture-backed entrepreneurs and investors.
The Shift in Defense Tech Investing
According to venture investors, the current transformation in defense tech is being described as a “generational opportunity” and a “generational shift” of capital and wealth. Geopolitical antagonisms, the need for U.S. defense to remain competitive, and changes within the Department of Defense have all contributed to this shift.
When considering dual-use segments like space launch and biotechnology, the opportunities in defense tech become even more expansive. Last year alone, defense tech venture capital activity reached $34.3 billion, according to PitchBook.
Complexities and Risks
While the landscape for defense tech investing has changed, there are still complexities and risks involved. Investors discuss the complexities of defense tech investing, which sectors are saturated or undersaturated, and whether venture dollars will help build the next U.S. prime.
The Investment Thesis for Defense Tech
Defense tech is seen as a massive market historically defined by inertia and occupied by imperfect legacy businesses. Investing in defense startups is seen as a way to diversify risk, support motivated builders, and capitalize on asymmetric upside while ensuring national security.
The Landscape Today Compared to Five Years Ago
In the past, it was believed that defense tech couldn’t achieve the returns in the timeframe that limited partners desired. However, the landscape has changed in recent years, with turbulent capital markets and global conflicts leading sophisticated investors to re-allocate capital into defense tech specialists. Defense tech founders now command a premium.
The Effect of Generalist VCs
As more generalist venture capital firms enter the defense tech space, there is both excitement and caution. While it’s positive to see more funding backing the development of substantive defense products, defense tech is complex and requires specialized expertise. Early participants in the defense tech ecosystem are protective, ensuring that original investors and founders are shielded.
Overall, the shift in defense tech investing presents a generational opportunity for venture investors, with expansive opportunities and complexities to navigate. The landscape has changed significantly in recent years, and the entry of generalist VCs adds a new dynamic to the defense tech ecosystem.