The Story Behind My Investment In SkySafe

Back in Q1 of 2016, when the technology sector went through a sizable (but apparently now forgotten) correction fueled by sharp hits to public tech stocks, I was happily investing into the very early-stage ecosystem, and in particular, deeper technology opportunities. It was at that time when my friend Julian introduced me to Grant Jordan, a co-founder of SkySafe.

I looked up Grant’s background and read up on his work. I was 90% convinced to invest in him after a bit of online sleuthing. In the first few minutes of meeting Grant, the decision was made. Grant’s industrial expertise was off-the-charts and focused in such a way that his approach to SkySafe became, literally, a no-brainer decision. Grant had grown up as a computer tinkerer, to put it mildly, studied CS, security systems, and EE at MIT, went on to work as a core engineer at Wright Patterson Air Force Base leading a team tasked with finding 101 ways to take down enemy UAVs of many shapes and sizes, parlayed that into a consulting firm with some of his colleagues — and now some of those folks have joined him to form SkySafe.

By now, you’ve likely heard of the various methods by which startups are trying to help others stop rogue drones. There are drones which will attack other drones, or drones which shoot out nets to capture other drones, and on and on. The problem is very real. On the battlefield, terrorists are outfitting off-the-shelf drones and weaponizing them with aftermarket upgrades. As the drone industry grows, we will see more flying above us in public spaces. It will go so far as testing the airspace regulations we have, as well as privacy rights citizens have.

Grant and his team have a unique approach to this emergent issue with SkySafe. The company’s technology is defined by radio frequency signals which are intelligent enough to detect rogue drones and force them to either leave or to land while permitting approved drones to continue operations. To hear Grant explain it, it’s the stuff of sci-fi — SkySafe’s systems reverse-engineer the communications and telemetry links unique to each model of drone and using electromagnetic pulses to disable the drone.

Wow, where do I send the Haystack wire?

I was fortunate to be a part of SkySafe’s seed round, which was led by a16z. Now, a16z is tripling down on Grant and his team with a new Series A announced a few weeks ago. While the near-term focus for Skysafe will be on defense applications — they are working specifically with the Naval Special Warfare unit and the SEALs in particular — the future will be marked by protecting public spaces and even private spaces. In a world like that, it’s good fortune for Haystack to be involved with SkySafe and to play a small part in bringing this technology from the battlefield to the world at-large.

Haystack is written by Semil Shah, and is published under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA license. Copyright © 2017 Semil Shah.

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