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Linking combat veterans and Valley engineers, Reveal's drone technology wins DoD contracts, VC cash

Jonathan Shieber
·3-min read

When Garrett Smith graduated from Stanford University to take a job with the drone startup Kespry, he'd not only wrapped up studying at one of the nation's most prestigious universities, but also had already completed several combat tours in Southeast Asia and South America with the Marine Corps.

At Kespry, Smith met fellow veteran Andrew Dixon, and fellow Stanford graduates John Laxson, and Parker Clark, Kespry's co-founder and chief technology officer (who joined the company a few months after its launch).

Together, the four men realized that the tools and technology Kespry was developing for commercial use could be used by the military as well. It was the inspiration behind the decision to launch Reveal Technology.

"The deep familiarity with the market and leadership and chops around the business problem, combined with the creme de la creme in terms of technical capability came together in this ideal mixture of military veteran talent and entrepreneurial spirit and technologists interested in serving a mission greater than themselves," said Smith in an interview. "There's a strong cohort of military veterans who have a deep understanding of the requirements and the gaps and the opportunities, when they're married up with top-tier technical talent, when there's some synergy there, that's where true magic can happen."

Reveal's "magic" is creating detailed maps of areas using data stitched from short drone flights to create a more accurate picture of an area. The company has also designed some machine learning algorithms that can provide predictive analysis of potential threats, according to Smith.

The company has already been able to sign initial contracts with the U.S. military thanks to its connections to the Defense Innovation Unit, an initiative designed to connect early stage technology companies and entrepreneurs in to the needs of the Defense Department and its supply chain. Several companies have received millions in early grants and contracts through the program.

"One of the exciting things about these innovation programs -- like the SBIR programs and others -- [all the military branches] have been using those prolifically and they represent ways that companies that are small, like us, can get real revenue going that's non-dilutive and gives you rapid access to the market in ways that are normally not afforded," said Smith.

Helping the company navigate the Defense Department's procurement process and develop strategies to enter new markets associated with the DOD are General Peter Pace, former United States Marine Corps general who served as the 16th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Kevin Mandia, CEO of FireEye -- who are both joining the company as advisors.

These military contracts actually give companies like Reveal access to additional markets as well. Through the DOD, the company is primed to work with the state of California on drone mapping services for natural disaster response. It's another way that city and state governments are turning to technology to help prepare for natural disasters -- and it's a potentially lucrative business.

"What happens is drones or other aircraft generating video or images from an aerial perspective pipe that information down to a ground control device or mobile device. Our app Farsight software will be running on those devices generating the context-rich maps so people on the ground and in control centers can make decisions in an ever evolving natural disaster environment," said Smith.

The technology has won investment support from Defy Ventures, the investment firm founded by former General Catalyst managing director Neil Sequeira and KPCB managing partner, Trae Vassallo; and 8VC, the venture capital shop set up by Palantir co-founder Joe Lonsdale.

“Investment in Reveal - and in their generation of 'defense-first, dual-use' technology companies - ensures an advantage as future generations of companies replace the old,” said Sequeira. “We believe that their incredible team has potential to make a huge impact and we are excited to support them and see the long-term innovation pay off for this industry and for our country.”