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Startups should absolutely work with governments to support defense projects



In these times of heightened tensions and global volatility, I believe startups can play a critical role in our defense, space and national security ecosystem by bringing the very latest innovation to public institutions, some of whom lag startlingly far behind.

Startups and active investors in the sector are uniquely positioned to support the defense efforts of the West and the mission to keep our societies safe. Let’s not mince our words: Right now, we are already locked in hybrid warfare with Russia, a nuclear-armed superpower, while tensions with another, China, simmer just below the surface. Despotic regimes threaten our values and way of life, and few would predict that is set to change anytime soon.

Yet despite all this, much of the technology and venture capital industry has shown little inclination to engage with the defense establishment. Prior to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, over dinner with friends and co-workers, you risked triggering anguished disapproval (and far worse), by stating that you believe startups should work with the likes of the Pentagon, NATO and Western governments in general. Today you largely garner a very different response: murmurs of assent.

The very latest, most powerful technologies offer an edge to those who create and possess them – as we have seen in some of the Western firepower deployed in Ukraine, alongside Ukrainian battlefield innovation. The brutal truth is that in resting on our laurels, the West has allowed those who wish us harm to catch up, and in some instances, surpass our capabilities – and the tech industry is partially to blame.

For example, in 2018, thousands of Googlers signed a letter to their boss, Sundar Pichai, declaring that “Google should not be in the business of war.” Specifically, they were protesting their employer’s involvement in a U.S. Department of Defense initiative, Project Maven, which was using Google AI tools to analyze military drone footage. “Building this technology to assist the US Government in military surveillance – and potentially lethal outcomes – is not acceptable,” they wrote.

This uncompromising and combative stance ultimately led to the decision by Google’s management not to renew its lucrative Maven contract, and soon afterwards it also withdrew from contention for the Pentagon’s cloud computing contract known as the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure cloud (JEDI) – reportedly worth $10B over ten years.

Google employees were far from alone in confronting their bosses over perceived collaboration with the Trump administration, which was widely reviled in progressive-leaning tech circles. Around the same time, Microsoft employees called on CEO Satya Nadella to stop working with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Amazon workers protested their company’s development of surveillance tech, while Salesforce employees signed a petition calling for its leaders to “re-examine” the company’s contract with US Customs and Border Protection (CBP)”.

What a difference a few years make. Fast forward to 2022 and a combination of COVID-19 and its legacy, stressed and unstable global supply chains, Russia’s war with Ukraine, the first threat of food insecurity in the U.S. or in the West since WW2, and increased tensions with China have prompted a sharp rethink from much of the tech and venture capital industry on its responsibilities towards government.

Today, in marked contrast to most other verticals, investment in aerospace and defense startups is surging. Between January and October 2022, according to PitchBook, VCs invested $7B in 114 aerospace and defense tech deals, which placed the sector on a trajectory to surpass 2021’s record $7.6B total. In 2018, VCs invested just $1.4B in those industries. (A part of this, notes PitchBook, may be due to the fact defense and aerospace are rather more recession-proof than, say, consumer or enterprise products.)

I’m immensely proud that Techstars is one of the most active investors in this category. With almost about 100 investments overall in aerospace, defense and space tech, we are one of only three VCs to have participated in more than 20 space startup deals since 2000, while 25% of the firms selected for 2022 NASA Small Business Innovation Research contracts were Techstars-backed companies. One of our portfolio companies, Slingshot Aerospace recently closed a $40.8M Series A-2 funding round. Its clients include the U.S. Air Force, the U.S. Space Force, and NASA.

Yet there is much ground to make up. A blog post from defense tech company Anduril that was cited in The Information put it this way:

“Despite spending more money than ever on defense, our military technology stays the same. There is more AI in a Tesla than in any U.S. military vehicle; better computer vision in your Snapchat app than in any system the Department of Defense owns; and, until 2019, the United States’ nuclear arsenal operated off floppy disks.”

Recent relative calm convinced us, erroneously, that we were living in a stable, post-conflict world where threats to our way of life and maneuvers by bad actors could somehow be ignored or wished away. In this scenario, much of the Valley could persuade itself that it could refuse to build products that are designed to harm and kill (even when that is not their overt aim). Such stances now seem naive and idealistic at best; posturing at worst.

Back in 2018, the hashtag #TechWontBuildIt was used to protest Big Tech’s government contracts. Not only must we build, but there is little time to waste.

This post was originally published on this site

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Growing a Business

2023’s Festive Formula: Small Business Success in the Extended Holiday Season

Navigate the unique landscape of the 2023 holiday shopping season with our expert guide. Discover how small businesses can capitalize on extended consumer spending, leveraging the latest trends in personalization, online marketing, and fast fulfillment. From creating an enchanting in-store experience to mastering the digital realm, learn how to harness consumer behavior shifts for a prosperous holiday period. Get ready to transform challenges into opportunities and make this festive season your most successful yet!



The holiday season is a pivotal time for small businesses globally. With 2023’s extended holiday shopping period and consumer trends towards affordability and unique experiences, small businesses have unique opportunities to thrive.

Understanding the Holiday Shopper

Modern consumers are trading down, seeking value while also desiring experiences and personal connections. They prefer businesses offering unique, personalized services, and community engagement. This shift opens up numerous opportunities for small enterprises.

Creating a Festive In-Store Experience

Physical stores can become holiday attractions. Creative decorations, themed events, and promotions, coupled with an omnichannel approach combining in-store and online experiences, can attract and retain customers.

Leveraging Online Platforms

A strong online presence is critical. Enhance your digital platforms with festive themes, promotions, and gift guides. Utilize AI and generative AI for personalized marketing and improve online interactions through advanced chatbots.

Harnessing the Power of Social Media

Social media offers a platform for inspiration and engagement. Utilize platforms like Pinterest, Instagram, and YouTube to inspire and engage your audience. Collaborative promotions with other businesses can create unique experiences.

Personalization and Customer Service

Personalization is crucial. Use customer data to offer customized experiences and promotions. Exceptional customer service, both in-store and online, is vital to meet high consumer expectations.

Fast Fulfillment and Inventory Management

Consumers expect fast fulfillment options like same-day delivery and curbside pickup, especially among younger demographics. Efficient inventory management and transparent communication about product availability are essential.

Post-Holiday Strategies

Extend holiday strategies beyond December. Post-holiday sales, exchanges, and New Year promotions can drive ongoing traffic and sales. Use this period for collecting feedback and data analysis for future strategies.


The extended 2023 holiday season offers small businesses the chance to adapt and excel. By embracing consumer trends towards value, experiences, and fast fulfillment, and leveraging technology for personalization and efficiency, small businesses can enjoy a successful holiday season.

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Growing a Business

Unlock the Power of Email: 2023’s Ultimate Guide to Personalized Marketing Mastery



In the rapidly evolving digital landscape, email remains a cornerstone of business communication. Contrary to the whispers of naysayers, email is not an antiquated relic but a dynamic tool, continually adapting to the latest trends and technologies. In this article, we explore how small businesses can craft compelling email campaigns that resonate with today’s audience.

1. The Art of Personalization

Gone are the days of generic, one-size-fits-all email blasts. In 2023, personalization is not just a buzzword; it’s a necessity. Utilizing data analytics to segment your audience and tailor your messages can significantly increase engagement rates. Personalization goes beyond inserting a first name; it’s about crafting content that reflects the individual interests, buying behaviors, and preferences of your subscribers.

2. Mobile-First Email Design

With the majority of emails now opened on mobile devices, a mobile-first design approach is crucial. Emails should be visually appealing and easily readable on smaller screens, with responsive design and clear call-to-action (CTA) buttons. Additionally, loading times should be minimal, and images optimized for quick and efficient loading.

3. Interactive and Visual Content

Incorporating interactive elements like surveys, polls, or clickable sliders can boost engagement and provide valuable feedback. Visual content, such as infographics and videos, can increase open rates and make your emails more memorable. With the rise of platforms like TikTok and Instagram, incorporating short-form video content into your emails can be particularly effective.

4. Authenticity and Brand Storytelling

Consumers are increasingly drawn to brands that showcase authenticity and a compelling narrative. Use your email campaigns to tell your brand’s story, share your values, and build a deeper connection with your audience. This approach not only fosters loyalty but also differentiates your brand in a crowded market.

5. AI-Driven Email Optimization

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is reshaping email marketing. From predictive analytics that forecast the best time to send emails to AI-powered copywriting tools that help create compelling subject lines, integrating AI can significantly enhance the effectiveness of your campaigns.

6. Privacy and Data Protection

With growing concerns about data privacy and the introduction of regulations like GDPR, ensuring the privacy and security of your subscribers’ data is more critical than ever. Be transparent about how you collect and use data, provide easy opt-out options, and maintain compliance with data protection laws.

7. Measuring Success and Adapting Strategies

Finally, the success of an email campaign is in its metrics. Open rates, click-through rates, conversion rates, and unsubscribe rates provide insights into what works and what doesn’t. Regularly reviewing these metrics and adapting your strategy accordingly is key to continual improvement.


Email marketing remains a vital tool for small businesses, offering a direct line of communication to your audience. By embracing personalization, optimizing for mobile, leveraging interactive and visual content, staying authentic, utilizing AI, respecting privacy, and adapting to feedback, your email campaigns can achieve greater relevance and impact in the ever-changing digital era.

This article aims to provide small businesses with up-to-date insights and actionable tips on creating effective and engaging email campaigns that align with current trends and consumer expectations.

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Revolutionizing Marketing: The Power of AI in the Digital Age



Embracing AI-Powered Marketing: Transforming Brands in the Digital Marketplace

In the crowded digital marketplace, standing out is challenging. Enter AI-powered marketing, a revolutionary upgrade transforming brands into digital powerhouses.

Hyper-Personalized Campaigns: Beyond Basic Personalization

Gone are the days of generic marketing. Today’s gold standard is AI-driven hyper-personalization. This approach uses customer data analysis to create deeply resonant, individualized marketing campaigns. With AI’s ability to segment audiences based on intricate criteria, including purchasing history and browsing behavior, your messages can hit the mark every time.

Enhanced Customer Journey Mapping

AI’s capabilities extend to mapping the entire customer journey. By predicting needs and preferences at each stage, AI aids in crafting narratives that guide customers from discovery to purchase, integrating your brand into their personal stories.

SEO Wizardry: Mastering Search Engine Dynamics

With ever-changing algorithms, SEO is a complex puzzle. AI serves as a sophisticated navigator, deciphering these changes through machine learning. It aids in keyword optimization, understanding search intent, and aligning content with search trends.

Predictive SEO

AI tools offer predictive SEO, anticipating search engine and user behavior changes. This proactive stance ensures your brand’s prominent visibility in search results, capturing the right audience at the right time.

Social Media Mastery: Crafting a Digital Narrative

AI transforms social media strategies from uncertain to precise. By analyzing vast social data, AI provides insights into resonating content.

Content Optimization

AI analyzes performance data to recommend effective content types. This data-driven approach refines your social media content strategy.

Engagement Analysis

AI examines user interaction nuances, understanding engagement patterns. It helps tailor interactions for maximum impact, including adjusting posting schedules and messaging for increased relevance.

Conclusion: Navigating the AI-Driven Marketing Landscape

AI-powered marketing is essential for thriving in the digital age, offering precision and personalization beyond traditional methods. For small businesses, it’s a chance to leverage AI for impactful, data-driven strategies.

As we embrace the AI revolution, the future of marketing is not just bright but intelligently radiant. With AI as your digital ally, your brand is equipped for a successful journey, making every marketing effort and customer interaction count.

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