Labrys Technologies raises seeds to serve humanitarian military scenarios. The tech community viewed Helsing’s $223 million Series B financing as more evidence that defense was back on investors’ radar screens. Additional validation was provided today, as disclosed exclusively to TechCrunch, about a $5.5 million seed round led by Germany’s Project A Ventures for the U.K. military tech startup Labrys Technologies. Expeditions Fund, MD One Ventures, Marque V.C., and Offset Ventures were also present. The money will go into growing the R&D and development departments and the commercial sales force.
The easiest way to summarize Labrys would probably be that slack meets location meets money in humanitarian and military contexts. Even if it seems a little tongue-in-cheek, it makes more sense when you consider the issues the device is meant to address.
WhatsApp is frequently utilized in rapidly evolving circumstances, like a humanitarian emergency. Furthermore, to show my interest in the topic, I can speak from personal experience. When I started the NGO Techfugees in 2015, we discovered that refugees and aid workers nearly always utilized WhatsApp to organize an action. It was easy to use, quick, robust against faulty networks, and location-revealing. But its shortcomings are painfully clear. How can you be sure you are speaking with a bona fide humanitarian? What happens if they don’t disclose where they are? How do you get funds or resources from them? These issues must be resolved.
“WhatsApp is very problematic when it comes to managing large teams worldwide because the communications are end-to-end encrypted,” co-founder and CEO August Lersten told me in an interview. It can occasionally make it quite challenging to determine and verify who you are conversing with on the other end of the phone. Furthermore, it is impossible to include all of these various discussions in what is known as a network coordination tree. I don’t need 133 distinct individual communications to talk to 133 people in Indonesia.
As a result, a Labrys customer receives a screen dashboard that allows users to contact entire teams or individuals and see their current position, much like Slack or Microsoft Teams. And you have the option to pay them later on.
The founders’ work “in the field” revealed an itch that the platform of the veteran-owned firm successfully “scratched.” Former Royal Marine Commander Lersten oversaw units in Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. Co-founder and COO Luke Wattam has experience working with the FCDO, the Ministry of Defence, and other U.K. allies.
Task management, encrypted communications, KYC/E verification, and user geolocation are all made possible via the Labrys platform, which includes Axiom C2 and Axiom Communicator. Finally, it incorporates cryptocurrency stablecoins for digital payments. Put another way, you can find out who you’re working with, where they are, and how to pay them. This is especially crucial when handling humanitarian crises.
Lersten told me, “I use a geographic interface to see my people.” Using that interface sets you apart from other communication channels and apps like Slack and WhatsApp. The second element is speaking with those dots, wherever they may be in Afghanistan. After that, I wish to pay my employees. Using the same interface, I may pay them in stablecoins denominated in U.S. dollars.
According to Labrys, the platform has already shown its value in the industry. Ukrainian State Emergency Services have utilized it after the Kakhovka Dam break and in Afghanistan, where it reportedly helped 5,000 oppressed Afghan minorities escape.
In an email to TechCrunch, Mykola Taranenko, commander of the Ukrainian Red Cross’s Kherson Regional Rapid Response Team and a customer of Labrys, stated: “As a commander, I always need to see where my team is when they are on a mission, especially in a high-risk environment like Ukraine.” I can safely keep an eye on my team’s whereabouts and status with Axiom’s aid. Oversee contributions, swiftly translate digital donations into tangible effects, buy equipment locally, and donors can track the use of their funds.”
Several civilian and military solutions overlap in the unique context in which Labry operates. Everbridge, for instance, is an enterprise software program that gives users—typically from the military and non-governmental organizations—a knowledge of worldwide flashpoints. However, unlike Labrys, it cannot communicate with people “on the ground,” as it were. Another tracking technology is called “Blue Force” and is called TAK. On the other hand, Premise Data has funded $146 million and offers analytics regarding assets on the ground in addition to a software platform for humanitarian groups.
This recent fundraising round, which ranks among the largest seed rounds for a military tech business in Europe to date, indicates that defense is no longer off-limits to investors, as demonstrated at TechCrunch Disrupt this year.
The market for “dual-use” products—which may coordinate military or civilian teams—is expanding. The command and control systems market was valued at $22 billion globally as of 2022, and it is projected to grow to $28 billion by 2028.
In the meantime, European startups Improbable, EclecticIQ, Living Optics, and Preligens have all garnered tens of millions of dollars—and sometimes more—in investment in the past year or two.
The report confirms established patterns from the previous year when venture capital-backed corporations invested $7 billion in American aerospace and defense enterprises.