The Next War
Bloomberg Businessweek|August 30, 2021
Shield AI, a startup born of the conflict in Afghanistan, is looking for a broader mission
Joshua Brustein

Brandon Tseng, a former Navy SEAL who served in Afghanistan and elsewhere overseas, developed the idea for his startup Shield AI to solve a problem specific to what he and his colleagues saw in the field. One of the most dangerous tasks for U.S. ground troops in the Middle East was entering buildings that might contain armed fighters. So Shield, founded in 2015, built fleets of small, autonomous drones that would go in first and send photos and maps to soldiers waiting nearby.

The U.S. military has used Shield’s technology in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria. The end of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan marks a new era for the military, and for Shield. The company has spent the better part of the year acquiring new technology and pitching officials and investors on a future beyond the Middle East. That includes the potential for conflicts with China or Russia, according to Tseng and other senior employees. On Aug. 24, Shield said it raised $210 million from investors including Disruptive Technology Advisers, which valued the company at about $1.25 billion. That makes Shield one of the few unicorns serving the military sector. It’s closing on an additional $90 million in debt and equity investment in the next several weeks, the company says. (Bloomberg Beta, the venture capital arm of Bloomberg LP, the parent of Bloomberg Businessweek, invested in Shield’s early financing rounds.)

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