Defense Unicorns Raises $35 Million Series A to Advance National Security through Open Source Software

The startup bootstrapped its way to nearly $30M in annual revenue and has secured a large portfolio of work across the national security community

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Defense Unicorns, a software startup providing open source software and AI capabilities for National Security systems, today announced it 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 $58.5B in FY24 with an additional $1.8B 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 Outdated technology, diverse compute environments, and the complexities of security and compliance standards have caused an unacceptable time lag, placing our country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 and Co-Founder 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, Co-Founder and 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.”

Defense Unicorns has over 125 employees and is currently hiring for a number of roles, including product managers, data scientists, platform engineers, software engineers and more. For career opportunities, visit To view or contribute to the company’s open source projects, visit

About Defense Unicorns

Founded in 2021, Defense Unicorns is a software company that has over 100 years of collective experience working software delivery and AI solutions for government agencies. Our mission is to transform the way the U.S. Department of Defense buys, builds, delivers and sustains software capabilities. We provide secure software and AI solutions deployable across cloud, on-prem, and tactical edge environments. Defense Unicorns is trusted by the most critical systems in the world, including the U.S. Navy, Air Force and Space Force. For more information, visit:

About Sapphire Ventures

Sapphire is a global software venture capital firm with more than $11 billion in AUM and team members across Austin, London, Menlo Park and San Francisco. For over a decade, Sapphire has partnered with visionary management teams and venture funds to back companies of consequence. Since its founding, Sapphire has invested in more than 170 companies globally resulting in more than 30 Public Listings and 45 acquisitions. The firm’s investment strategies — Sapphire Ventures, Sapphire Partners and Sapphire Sport — are focused on scaling companies and venture funds, elevating them to become category leaders. Sapphire’s Portfolio Growth team of experienced operators delivers a strategic blend of value-add services, tools and resources designed to support portfolio company leaders as they scale.

About Ansa Capital

Ansa is a venture capital firm founded by Allan Jean-Baptiste and Marco DeMeireles focused on creating a new model for founders: equal, aligned, and relentless. Backed by leading US institutions, including Princeton and Accolade, we leverage our experience as early partners to companies like CrowdStrike, Coinbase, Zscaler, FanDuel, and Peloton to support our operators’ evolution into category definers. Our commitment goes beyond capital — our network of advisors aids our visionary founders in operational scaling, and our Revenue Council of experienced go-to-market leaders share in our mission to equip the teams we back with indispensable tools and resources that accelerate their path to market leadership. To learn more about Ansa, visit:


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