Stanford Seminar - Silicon Valley & The U.S. Government: Vannevar Lab's Brett Granberg

Stanford Seminar - Silicon Valley & The U.S. Government: Vannevar Lab's Brett Granberg

McKinsey & Company

  • The speaker started their career at McKinsey & Company after graduating from the University of Georgia.
  • Despite lacking a business or finance background, they were recruited for their intelligence and potential.
  • They found the work unfulfilling and uninteresting, leading them to seek opportunities in national security.


  • The speaker joined In-Q-Tel, a venture capital firm funded by the CIA, after three years at McKinsey.
  • They focused on computer vision and NLP, working closely with the counterterrorism mission center at the CIA.
  • They emphasized the importance of understanding customer mission problems to make informed investment decisions.
  • They observed that separating product people and engineers from mission end users can lead to worse results.


  • The speaker describes their experience working at Allview, a company that invests in dual-use technologies for the CIA and other government agencies.
  • They found that the dual-use model was not always effective and that the government was spending money on ineffective systems.
  • They realized the need for a company that could bring together product people, engineers, and domain experts to build fundamentally different things in the defense space.
  • They started Allview to build a platform for analyzing and translating text in different languages, initially focusing on counterterrorism but later pivoting to focus on Russia and China.

Vanu Labs

  • The founders of Vanu Labs took two years to raise enough funding to start their company.
  • They identified a top-three mission problem in the Department of Defense (DoD) and developed a product that solved that problem.
  • They relied on friends and veterans to connect them with the right people to access military bases and understand user needs.
  • They focused on demonstrating their product's value to the mission rather than simply describing its features when pitching.
  • Their first product collected data to answer useful and urgent mission questions, requiring the development of secure data collection and processing technology.
  • It took 40 pitches and numerous diligence meetings to secure one offer for the seed round, which came from Katherine Bole at NGC.
  • The fundraising process was stressful, involving rejections, leadership team issues, and personal challenges.
  • The company's strong sense of purpose and mission in defense attracted talent and resulted in a low attrition rate.

Defense Sales

  • Direct sales to the government require a different approach compared to B2B or consumer sales.
  • The most successful defense sales teams include a salesperson, an engineer, and a product person.
  • Program offices and program managers are crucial in defense sales as they control the budget and write the requirements for technology purchases.
  • The budgeting process for defense is a three-year cycle, making it challenging to sell products that address future problems.
  • The EUER process (unfunded requirements process) is a way to obtain a portion of the 20% of the budget that is not allocated to specific programs.
  • Building domain expertise and understanding the unique challenges of selling to the government are essential for success in defense sales.


  • The speaker expresses admiration for companies like Anduril that challenge traditional defense primes and bring value to the system.
  • They emphasize the importance of more companies like Anduril succeeding to compete and prevail in the current technological landscape.

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