A new $40 million venture capital fund has recruited former Salesforce Ventures boss Mike Ferrari as managing director as it looks to back early-stage startups developing sovereign capabilities.
Salus Ventures is the first dedicated early-stage Australian fund to invest in founders developing cutting-edge tech for commercial and government markets.
It will back from Seed to Series A, tipping up to $1.5 million into initial rounds.
The VC fund has been built by Safewill cofounder Dan Bennett, who has spent nearly a decade as OurCrowd’s managing partner, and investment executive and consultant Marten Peck, with Ferrari joining the founding team as MD.
Together their experience spans decades in defence, national security, operations, early- and growth-stage investing.
Ferrari’s CV makes him ideally suited to the new role, having previously established and co-led the Sydney office of In-Q-Tel, the CIA VC arm, where he established himself as an early stage deep-tech investor focused on commercial technologies that could have a “dual-use” in national security. Ferrari parted ways with Salesforce last month when the company cut thousands of jobs globally and shut down the Sydney office of its VC fund. He was already in discussions with Salus ahead of being made redundant.
Peck and Bennett launched the fund and raise in late 2022, scooping up the first $25 million for the fund in just eight weeks, also closing its first investment before the year ended.
Bennett said dual-use technologies have seen accelerated investor interest, particularly in the US and Ferrari’s experience in the US and Australia has given him a unique grasp of both the needs of the national security community and the challenges and opportunities that come with developing technologies for demanding use cases.
“In today’s dynamic geo-strategic environment, it’s becoming increasingly clear there is a growing need for nations to create sovereign capabilities to safeguard their independent strategic autonomy,” he said.
“Rooted in our unique combination of experience, our strength at Salus Ventures is identifying and supporting Australian founders who aspire to solve critically important national challenges through novel innovations in the areas of artificial intelligence and machine learning, cybersecurity and enterprise software, automation and advanced manufacturing, defence and aerospace, public wellness, and other emerging technologies.”
Peck says Salus Ventures has already established itself as the ‘go to’ VC for founders building technology for both commercial and government use.
“Our deep networks and understanding of industry and government will assist and direct our portfolio companies to opportunities both in Australia and around the world. Specifically, we’ll be backing founders and critical technologies with the potential for dual-use application,” he said.
Ferrari said that alongside capital, Salus offers “an unmatched range of expertise” to support portfolio companies.
“While our primary job at Salus is to generate attractive returns for the investors who have entrusted us with their capital, for me personally it is really exciting to be able to do that while also returning to the mission of helping the best technologies to make their way into the hands of end-users in critical roles,” he said.
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