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8th Birthday Message

To the Shield AI Team: 

Happy 8th Birthday Shield AI! This is for our teammates, customer champions, and investors. 

When I was trying to figure out what I wanted to pursue after the Navy, I remember Elon Musk saying, “I always wanted to be involved with something that could have a positive effect on the future of humanity. For me, the three relevant areas were the internet, sustainable energy, and space exploration.” I recall thinking to myself, “what a great framework” and “what is Elon not working on directly that I can?” Having experienced the wretchedness of war, like many of our teammates and customers, I decided there was an opportunity to have a very big and positive effect on the future of humanity if some of war’s most challenging problems could be solved. 

Eight years ago, we established our mission to protect service members and civilians with artificially intelligent systems and in doing so, help support national security and global stability – the foundations of human achievement. In pursuit of that mission, we decided to build the world’s best AI pilot, an AI that could fly any type of aircraft. That year, we were told by so many that “defense is dumb,” or “the tech community won’t work with the military,” and “you can’t scale in defense, defense only goes with the primes.” The feedback reverberated in our heads, and hesitation knocked incessantly at our door. In 2015, “defense-tech” was not a thing. But when something is important enough, you do what honor dictates even if the odds are not in your favor. 

Fast forward to May 2023:
we’ve got over 600 teammates; we’re building incredible technology and products; and we’ve achieved top-percentile business success for venture-backed companies. But none of that would really mean anything if we didn’t have a mission that matters. When people ask me, “what are you most proud of at Shield?” I respond without hesitation: it’s that our products and services have mission impact. When Nova brings a whole platoon of service members home safely to their families because it discovers a suicide bomber was waiting inside. When V-BAT finds and intercepts hundreds of millions of dollars in drugs, or when it provides strategic intelligence that changes the course of a battle.  When Hivemind flies a jet aircraft autonomously and forces our adversaries to rethink their invasion calculus. When these things happen, which are becoming increasingly common, I get goosebumps. 

And we’re just getting started. You often hear Ryan and I talk about rare opportunities and the unique chance we all have to build the defining technology company of this century – one that creates products and technologies promoting global stability, deterring adversaries, and achieving the greatest victory – that which requires no war. Achieving this will be hard as hell. We will get knocked down; we will encounter many difficult challenges. But I have zero doubt in my mind that if we pursue our mission with the same grit, fortitude, and courage that we have over the past eight years, we will win and will have had a material positive effect on the future of humanity. 

Happy Birthday, Shield AI! 

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