Less than three years after it was founded, the Munich AI startup Helsing becomes a unicorn. His product: software that is supposed to make tanks, fighter jets and submarines better.
Chancellor Scholz called it a “turning point” and here is the next proof: The Munich startup Helsing is now worth 1.7 billion euros after a Series B financing round of 209 million euros. And thus the first unicorn in the military, armament and defense sector – in all of Europe. This was preceded by Series A financing in November 2021 for 103 million euros, which was led by Prima Materia, the investment company founded by Spotify founder Daniel Ek.
As the company itself announced, the Swedish aircraft and defense group Saab participated as a strategic investor in the financing, with the US venture capitalist General Catalyst taking the lead. As the Handelsblatt writes, the Berlin VC La Famiglia also took part. Co-founder Jeannette zu Fürstenberg was already privately involved in Helsing, and participation through La Famiglia only became possible with the launch of two new funds that are deliberately open to investing in start-ups from the military sector. A trend that is already evident among other German VCs and could potentially become stronger as a result of Helsing’s unicorn breakthrough.
The startup, founded in 2021, develops an AI for various military operational devices – tanks, submarines, jets. The company says they could also use their software to upgrade existing weapon systems. In other words: make it more precise and faster. And Helsing is already doing that: In June 2023, just two years after it was founded, the startup received the order from the federal government to “enable the Eurofighter for electronic combat,” as the company said in a statement. In August, the order followed to deliver the AI infrastructure for the new European fighter generation Future Combat Air System (FCAS).
Already tested at the front
In addition, the Helsing software is already in actual use at the front: since 2022, the company said in its announcement about the completed Series B, the startup has been providing “skills and technology for frontline operations. In this context, Helsing personnel are continuously stationed in Ukraine.”
The fact that the growth of the Munich AI company has a greater impact than that of other successful startups is evident from the words of co-founder Torsten Reil in the press release: The investment is also a political matter. “This round of financing is a vote of confidence in Europe.” And further: The commitment of the American investor in particular “to global and European resilience is consistent with our mission to protect European democracies.”