A new $40 million venture capital fund has hired former Salesforce Ventures boss Mike Ferrari as general manager as it aims to support early-stage startups in developing sovereign capabilities.
Salus Ventures is Australia’s first early-stage fund investing in founders developing cutting-edge technology for commercial and government markets.
It returns from Seed to Series A, tipping up to $1.5 million in the early rounds.
The VC fund was built by co-founder of Safewill Danny Bennett, who spent nearly a decade as OurCrowd’s managing Partist, and investment manager and advisor Martin Peak, with Ferrari as MD at the founding team.
Together they have decades of experience in defense, national security, operations and early stage and growth investment.
Ferrari’s CV makes him ideally suited for the new role, which was previously established and co-led the Sydney office of In-Q-Tel, the CIA VC arm, where he established himself as an early deep-tech investor focused on commercial technologies that could have a “dual use” in the national security. Ferrari parted ways with Salesforce last month as the company cut thousands of jobs worldwide and closed the Sydney office of its VC fund. He was already in talks with Salus before he was fired.
Peck and Bennett launched the fund and will collect in late 2022which raised the fund’s first $25 million in just eight weeks, as well as completing its first investment before the end of the year.
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 understanding of both the needs of the national security community and the challenges and opportunities associated with developing technologies for demanding use cases.
“In today’s dynamic geostrategic environment, it is becoming increasingly apparent that there is a growing need for nations to create sovereign capabilities to ensure their independent strategic autonomy,” he said.
“Rooted in our unique combination of experience, our strength at Salus Ventures is in identifying and supporting Australian founders who strive to solve critically important national challenges through new innovations in artificial intelligence and machine learning, cybersecurity and enterprise software, automation and advanced manufacturing, defense and aerospace, public welfare 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 networking and industry and government knowledge will help and guide our portfolio companies to opportunities both in Australia and around the world. In particular, we will support founders and critical technologies with the potential for dual-use applications,” he said.
Ferrari said that next door capital offers Salus “an unparalleled 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, it is very exciting for me personally to be able to do that while returning to the mission of helping the best technologies reach their potential. away into the hands of end users in critical roles,” he said.