The future of defense funding with Founders Fund’s Trae Stephens | StrictlyVC LA

The future of defense funding with Founders Fund’s Trae Stephens | StrictlyVC LA

Trey Stevens

  • Trey Stevens, a native Ohioan, worked in the government before joining Palantir for six years.
  • He was later recruited by Peter Thiel to join Founders Fund and co-founded Anduril.
  • Stevens also co-founded Soul, a company that produces a lightweight e-reader.

Founders Fund

  • Founders Fund is a venture capital firm that focuses on investing in founders and founder-led businesses.
  • The firm does not take board seats and always votes with founders.
  • Founders Fund has a high conviction-driven investment approach and concentrates its investments into the best companies in each fund.
  • Keith Rabois, a former partner at Founders Fund, left to join Khosla Ventures due to differences in investment strategy.
  • Founders Fund prefers to invest in founders who are capable of running their own businesses and do not require excessive handholding.
  • Founders Fund invests in founders rather than VCs because they believe that founders are the ones who make companies successful.
  • The majority of Founders Fund's team is still based in the Bay Area, despite the opening of an office in Miami.


  • Anduril is a company that focuses on developing autonomous systems for defense purposes, aiming to reduce the cost of engagement and remove human operators from harm's way.
  • Anduril's approach is software-defined and hardware-enabled, making their systems more cost-effective compared to traditional hardware-defined systems.
  • The company acknowledges the challenge of mass production but is building a modular autonomous factory to meet customer demand efficiently.
  • Anduril is deployed in conflict zones around the world, including Ukraine, and is working to develop new capabilities for future conflicts.

Ethical Considerations

  • There are ethical considerations surrounding autonomous systems, but Anduril emphasizes the importance of preventing the loss of human life and taking lethal action responsibly.
  • The speaker believes that more information and autonomy are the best solutions for implementing AI in the military.
  • There are already fully autonomous weapon systems in use, such as those on aircraft carriers that detect and fire upon threats without human intervention.
  • The speaker is concerned about the potential for sentient AGI in the future, but does not believe that it is a near-term threat.

Russia's Investment in AI

  • Russia is actively investing in AI and views it as a means to control the world.

Elon Musk

  • Elon Musk is a unique and generational talent with exceptional abilities but also faces trade-offs in his personal life due to his intense focus and work ethic.


  • The speaker has a bunker and a survival kit in case of a cyberattack or other disaster.
  • The speaker is passionate about the United States and has worked in government service and with Peter Thiel, but has no plans to run for public office due to his wife's opposition.

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