Defence startup Helsing has raised €209m to develop AI software for the armed forces as rising geopolitical tensions provoke investment into defence tech.
Announced on Thursday, the Series B funding round was led by US venture capital firm General Catalyst, with the participation of Swedish group Saab, which will invest €75m for a 5% stake. The company declined to disclose its valuation after the deal.
Helsing, founded in 2021 and headquartered in Munich, will use the new cash to boost its growth in France, Germany and the UK, as well as pumping more money into its core technology projects. The company employs 220 people across its offices in Munich, Berlin, London and Paris.
“This funding round is a vote of confidence in Europe,” says Torsten Reil, cofounder and CEO of Helsing.
The war in Ukraine and rising tensions between the West and China have led to a global increase in interest in defence tech. Investment deals have spiked since Russia’s full-scale invasion in early 2022, according to Dealroom data.
Reil tells Sifted the investment environment was very challenging in March 2021, when Helsing was launched, with VCs shying away from deals with defence tech startups. This forced them to raise from a combination of individuals, family offices and various kinds of funds.
Since Russia’s large-scale invasion of Ukraine in early 2022, however, the “pendulum has swung almost entirely the other way,” he says.
“Some VCs still have some IP restrictions but most of them want to invest in defence, and that’s true actually world-wide,” he adds. “The general funding environment for defence companies, and specifically defence companies that focus on AI, has been very good. And we had a lot of inbound over the last year.”
Paul Kwan, managing partner at General Catalyst, praised Helsing’s products. “We believe Helsing is a category-defining software company that is fully aligned with our global resilience thesis — the need to modernise our most critical industries for today’s new world order,” he says.
Helsing’s software platform processes data from sensors and cameras on vehicles and systems to create real-time views of battlefields. Combining data from several cameras and infrared sensors, the platform would simplify search-and-rescue missions.
Recent projects have focused on providing capabilities for upcoming European fighter jets and providing technology to Ukraine (since last year). Helsing has also deployed personnel to the war-torn country.
The latest news follows a Series A round, in which Helsing raised €102.5m, led by Prima Materia, an investment company founded by Daniel EK, cofounder and CEO of Spotify.