By Nick Sinai and Richard Wells
We’re delighted to announce the creation of the Insight Partners’ Government Advisory Board (GAB), which brings together an experienced team of public sector leaders to advise Insight and our portfolio companies.
Insight has invested in high-growth software for decades, and some of our companies have focused, in part or in full, on government markets. Our companies have provided support to a number of U.S. federal, state, local, public safety, and K12 education government agencies — and many national and local governments globally too. Looking broader, many of our portfolio companies are also heavily influenced by the roles played by government — as an administrator, regulator, payee, or standard-setter. In short: the public sector matters.
And yet, navigating and succeeding in government can be a challenge, especially for our portfolio companies that are not focused on it. Even for those that are focused on government markets, it takes deep end-market expertise and sustained investment to build a thriving government business. That’s why, as part of Onsite, we’ve worked to help our portfolio companies with a mix of go-to-market strategy, M&A, recruiting help, business development, compliance expertise, convenings, and access to a wide network of experts, consultants, and advisors. Each company is unique, but there are some commonalities — see Nick’s posts on U.S. federal sales and government affairs.
To continue to help grow our portfolio companies, we’ve launched a new Government Advisory Board to bring expertise and strategic insight from incredibly thoughtful and experienced former public officials. GAB will advise us on our investment strategy and our initiatives to help our portfolio companies scale.
Our inaugural GAB members come with different experiences across the U.S. Government, but they share a firm belief that government needs great software. Last month, we brought them together with a dozen of our portfolio companies across defense, space, cybersecurity, risk management, software development, and enterprise IT — spanning the range from startups to sizable ScaleUps.
Defense and Dual-Use Investments
While GAB adds tremendous value across the portfolio, including the many dozens of cybersecurity, software development, and enterprise IT companies [in our portfolio, GAB members bring unique perspectives to the area of national security. For many years we’ve invested in companies that have sold to the U.S. Department of Defense and Intelligence Community, especially in the cyber domain — companies like Recorded Future, the leading threat intelligence company, Tenable, the leading vulnerability management company, and Pluralsight, the leading platform for tech workforce development. More recently, we’ve been investing in companies where the DoD and Intelligence Community is an important end market. These companies include Rebellion Defense, Hawkeye360, LeoLabs, and Shift5.
It should be more clear than ever that software is an indispensable capability for our military. It used to be that the best technology came from the Defense Department and the companies serving it. Silicon Valley famously has its roots in semiconductors made for the defense industry, and the early internet came from defense R&D. Up until the 1980’s, the pattern was clear — the most sophisticated (and expensive) technology came from the defense industrial base, and then corporate America, and many years later, for consumers.
But that’s all flipped. In the past two decades, government has been increasingly left behind during the software revolution. Today, you see many crucial parts of our government rely on legacy software systems from the prior century. Consumers had iPhones and iPads a decade before they made their way into the DoD. We no longer assume the best technologists work for the national security mission — though some do! Cloud computing, rapid iteration of software, and open APIs mean that great technical talent can build great companies anywhere — and that means national security-focused companies are competing for that talent on a more level playing field.
While all would agree that a well-maintained physical infrastructure is essential in the civilian world to grow our economy and build better lives, we also need advanced software for our military. China and Russia have spent the past 20 years honing cyber and software-centric military and intelligence capabilities to counter America’s ability to project power. If we do not take advantage of private-sector innovation sitting at our doorstep to be better, faster, and more resilient than our adversaries, we may rapidly cede our strategic advantage.
Our investments in national security are built on the assumption that great commercial software is needed for our defense and intelligence communities, and those of our allies. Our current investments in national security include:
- Recorded Future, the threat intelligence company;
- Rebellion Defense, the mission-focused AI company for the defense and security of the United States, the United Kingdom, and our allies;
- Hawkeye360, the space-based radio frequency (RF) analytics company;
- LeoLabs, the mapping platform for space; and
- Shift5, the leading cybersecurity company for planes, trains, and tanks.
We recognize that investing in national security isn’t easy when there is a lot of “bureaucratic cruft” — i.e. security, accreditation, and compliance processes that add up. And despite the good work of In-Q-Tel, DIU, and other innovation units in government, we need more operational buying of emerging technology at scale. Nick has testified in Congress on these topics, and recently joined the Atlantic Council’s new commission on improving the U.S. defense innovation ecosystem. As a firm, we are committed to bringing our voices to the national conversation about national security innovation.
As an American investment firm with offices in London and Tel Aviv, we are passionate about funding companies that protect our national security and advance our shared democratic values. In this era of strategic competition, the defense industry needs bold entrepreneurs to build the next generation of category-defining companies. We’re honored to partner with these mission-driven founders, as they work to make a difference.
Here is a bit more on each GAB member:
- Secretary Ash Carter, the 25th United States Secretary of Defense, and Director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. For over 35 years inside government under presidents of both political parties as well as in the private sector, Carter leveraged his extraordinary experience in national security, technology, and innovation to defend the United States and make a better world. He was awarded the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, the Department’s highest civilian honor, on five separate occasions.
- Honorable Sue Gordon, former Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence, former Deputy Director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, and career Central Intelligence Agency official. Ms. Gordon is a widely respected authority on risk management, technical innovation, and cyber and space issues. Today, she is an active board member, university fellow, and advises private companies in the areas of technology, strategy, and leadership.
- Lieutenant General (ret.) Jack Shanahan, former Director of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC), and first Director of the Algorithmic Warfare Cross-Functional Team (Project Maven). Lt Gen (ret.) Shanahan has served in a variety of operational and staff positions in various fields including flying, intelligence, policy, and command and control. He has commanded at the squadron, group, wing, Agency, and Numbered Air Force levels.
- Essye Miller, the former Principal Deputy Chief Information Officer and Chief Information Security Officer of the U.S. Department of Defense. Ms. Miller is a recognized leader with over 35 years of Federal and Department of Defense (DoD) experience driving cross-cutting information technology and business transformation initiatives.
- Honorable Dr. Will Roper, the former Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics. In this role, he led all research, development, procurement, and logistics for both the U.S. Air Force and Space Force: an annual budget totaling $60 billion. But he is best known for accelerating acquisition timelines and fostering disruptive innovation inside the government. Earlier in his career, Dr. Roper was the founding Director of the Pentagon’s Strategic Capabilities Office (SCO), growing this once-classified innovation office to $1.6 billion annually.
- Nicole Wong specializes in assisting high-growth technology companies to develop international privacy, content, and regulatory strategies. She previously served as Deputy U.S. Chief Technology Officer in the Obama Administration, focused on internet, privacy, and innovation policy. Prior to her time in government, Nicole was Google’s Vice President and Deputy General Counsel, and Twitter’s Legal Director for Products. She frequently speaks on issues related to law and technology, including five appearances before the U.S. Congress.
- General (ret.) Joe Votel, former Commander of Central Command (CENTCOM) and Special Operations Command (SOCOM), and President and CEO of Business Executives for National Security (BENS). During his 39 years in the military, he commanded special operations and conventional military forces at every level. His career included combat in Panama, Afghanistan and Iraq. Notably, he led a 79-member coalition that successfully liberated Iraq and Syria from the Islamic State Caliphate.
[Originally published on the Insight Partners blog]