February 20, 2024

10 defence startups to watch, according to investors

From autonomous robots to military drones, investors share the defence tech companies they're watching

Sadia Nowshin

5 min read

Defence tech has historically been a bit of a taboo for investors. Before 2021, investment into the sector across Europe never surpassed $100m in a single year, according to Dealroom. 

Recent global conflicts have raised awareness about the importance of defence tech and investors have been getting on board in response. 

Europe’s defence startups raised $464m in 2023, a 435% increase on 2022. It’s the most the sector has raised to date — in the funding boom of 2021, startups secured $235m. 


So, what are VCs keen to back? Investors from 7percent Ventures, Open Circle Capital and Adara Ventures share the companies on their radar.

Jeff Crusey, VC at 7percent Ventures 

7percent Ventures is a trans-Atlantic seed stage fund based in London and the US west coast. It invests very early in technology across deep tech, space/defence, future compute, human tech and smart planet.

Headshot of Jeff Crusey, who is smiling against a bright blurred background

Levato — Norway 

Levato is developing a defence simulation and training platform called Vantage, which offers leadership training for national defence teams like the US Coast Guard and Royal Norwegian Navy Academy through gamified simulated exercises. Scenarios that can be used to train include threats to subsea cables and joint NATO operations in the Baltic Sea. These can be played in multiplayer mode so cadets in training can be on the same virtual battlefield together.  

Disruptive Industries — UK 

Disruptive Industries offers intelligence that helps defence decision-makers to address problems more efficiently. Services include a proprietary model to make cyber insurance underwriting quicker and more comprehensive by offering a credit reference-style document summarising the risks to a company. The proprietary platform also allows customers to monitor the risk exposure of assets like satellites and non-physical assets like databases, with alerts sent out to relevant team members when a potentially harmful event occurs. 

Arondite — UK 

Arondite is building AI-enhanced products for defence. That includes a demining service, which uses drones outfitted with special sensors to detect mines and dispose of them in a safer and more cost-effective way than currently possible. 

Lambda Automata — Greece

Lambda Automata is developing autonomous border surveillance and security using sentry towers and a software stack. The technology aims to help small teams efficiently undertake surveillance on large areas. The company’s software-enabled towers use video or thermal video feeds to autonomously detect, track and geo-locate targets into a database. The towers can also identify and flag potential threats in the area. 

ARX Landsysteme — Germany  

ARX Landsysteme is working on autonomous robots for the defence industry that have modular add-ons depending on the mission and can be deployed in conflict zones within the army or used in emergency civilian situations. 

Alberto Gómez, managing partner at Adara Ventures

European VC Adara Ventures has invested in over 43 startups within cybersecurity, data and applications, infrastructure, DevOps, digital health and the energy transition.

A headshot of Alberto Gómez against a white background

DeNexus — Spain 

Protecting critical infrastructure, such as energy grids, against the rise of state-aligned groups, increasingly aggressive cyber activity and ongoing geopolitical challenges is now a top priority for governments, as any disruption to operations as a result of a targeted cyber attack can send ripples across nations.

DeNexus quantifies cybersecurity risk, helping to defend critical infrastructure such as power generation, manufacturing and data centre operations through its flagship platform, DeRISK. The platform helps manage cyber risk on an ongoing basis and more accurately determine the financial impacts of a cyber event.


Audrius Milukas, partner at Open Circle Capital 

Open Circle Capital is an early-stage fund with a focus on healthcare, industry and enterprise startups in the Baltics and Nordics.

Headshot of Audrius Milukas who is smiling against a blurred background

Astrolight — Lithuania

Astrolight is a laser technology company which is developing highly secure telecommunication systems for aerospace, defence and governmental applications. Its solution allows for laser-based communication between Earth and satellites, resulting in faster data transfer speeds and enhanced security. With the expected 14x increase in space data traffic volume over the next decade, Astrolight aims to provide a solution that meets the growing demands of the industry.

Unmanned Defense Systems — Lithuania

Unmanned Defense System manufactures in-house designed and developed tactical and unmanned military drone systems. The product is purposed for small military units and law enforcement agencies. Its applications in reconnaissance, surveillance and target designation have been tried and tested: they were used in the field by Ukrainian forces last year. 

Blackswan Space — Lithuania

Blackswan Space is a space tech startup that reduces risks with a comprehensive suite of AI-powered algorithms. The technology enable satellites to navigate, manoeuvre and perform complex tasks autonomously. The startup is also developing Robohands, which is designed for various missions requiring robotic manipulation in space such as satellite servicing, refuelling and assembly.

Aktyvus Photonics — Lithuania

Aktyvus Photonics specialise in robust lasers which are designed to withstand harsh environments like temperature changes, shock and humidity. With applications for both commercial and military use, they can be used for remote sensing and precision targeting.

Sadia Nowshin

Sadia Nowshin is a reporter at Sifted covering foodtech, biotech and startup life. Follow her on X and LinkedIn