As the story goes, Palmer Luckey was forced out of Facebook over his support for Donald Trump. (Facebook begs to differ.) Now, the Oculus founder is set to cash in big on his MAGA politics. On Wednesday, CNBC reported that Luckey’s defense start-up was valued at over $1 billion in its latest round of fundraising, with blue chip investors looking to get in on the venture.
Per the report, Anduril—the surveillance start-up that’s been providing border control technology to the United States government—saw a boom in its latest fundraising cycle, which isn’t exactly a surprise; the start-up has been cashing in on the Trump administration’s border crackdown, taking on controversial work that many other big tech firms have been unwilling to touch. What’s most notable is the big-name money now backing the venture. Sources told CNBC that Andreessen Horowitz, the venture capital giant whose portfolio has included Twitter, Groupon, and Facebook, is among the latest investors to buy into Luckey’s virtual border wall. (Andreessen Horowitz did not provide a comment to CNBC.)
It’s a significant sign of growth for the two-year-old firm, a mainstreaming of sorts for a company with a controversial mandate: using tech to help Trump carry out his draconian anti-immigrant agenda. Luckey, the boyish self-professed libertarian billionaire, has been outspoken in his support of the president. He left Facebook—which he joined in 2014 after selling his virtual reality start-up to Zuck and Co.—in 2017 following reports that he’d donated to pro-Trump groups. From there, he founded Anduril, which he described at the Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit last year as a “next-generation defense company” applying artificial intelligence and autonomous systems to the defense industry. “I think that the United States does a really good job, especially the military, of making better decisions when they have more information,” he told Axios co-founder Mike Allen. “So we’re trying to give them more information so they can make better decisions.”
While he has distanced himself from certain Trump policies, including country-based restrictions on immigration and family separations at the border, which he’s blamed on existing laws preceding the current administration, Luckey has said he’d vote for the president again in 2020 and supports his border crackdown. “I’m a fan of immigration,” he said at the New Establishment Summit in 2018. “But I also am a believer in strong borders and not having people come across through places that we have no idea what’s happening.”
With Anduril, he’s helping Trump enforce those hardline policies, partnering with the government at a time when other tech companies are facing increasing pressure to keep their distance. Big Tech has drawn heavy criticism for selling their technology to the government and law enforcement; Amazon, for instance, has been the subject of protests both within and outside the company for pitching its Rekognition facial analysis software to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, with critics arguing that it could “supercharge” the agency’s enforcement power. “You’re being complicit,” a protester shouted at Amazon Chief Technology Officer Werner Vogels at an event in New York over the summer. Luckey, by contrast, is wearing complicity as a badge of honor—and making bank in the process.
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