Kessel Runners selected for Defense Ventures Fellowship


Story by Richard Blumenstein

BOSTON (11 Aug, 2021) – Two Kessel Runners were selected for the next eight-week-long Defense Ventures Fellowship scheduled to take place August through October.

The Defense Venture Fellowship is a Small Business Innovation Research Phase 3 program run by the San Francisco based company Shift and overseen by AFWERX. The Immersion Program is funded by the Department of Defense, and focuses on connecting DoD personnel with industry and venture capitalists in a shared learning environment.

“If we want to win against our adversaries in the future, we have to be great customers in emerging technologies,” said Mike Slagh, founder and CEO of Shift.

The program is meant to teach DoD personnel the nuances of interacting with venture capitalists, technology startups and industry professionals through first hand experiences. In the first two weeks of the program, participants receive training from Shift on emerging technologies before spending six weeks immersed at a venture capital firm. There, they conduct research in a specific area of study to bring back and present to the DoD.

“There's an incredible benefit of getting the right people into the right rooms,” Slagh said. “For 6 weeks they embed full-time at a significant venture capital firm, or a technology startup; that either is already known to create a great impact within the Department of Defense, or a company that could have defense applications.”

Rachel Braun and Capt. Dylan Brown are the newest Kessel Runners selected to attend the program. Braun is a senior product manager. Brown is the Division Innovation Chief and Government Engagement Lead. They will join the ranks of three previous Kessel Runners who have attended the program, bringing Kessel Run’s alumni total to five.

Braun said she applied to the program to enhance her understanding of how Industry and venture capitalists partner with DoD.

“I want to learn how venture capitalists decide what to invest in and why, so that I can help DoD make better decisions moving forward on how we utilize our people, our resources and private-sector partners,” Braun said. “Being embedded with a venture capital firm that's actively looking to partner with the DoD will allow me to see how those decisions are made.”

She added that her time working with Kessel Run directly attributed to her being selected for the program because of the skills she's developed since working there.

“Since working at Kessel Run, I've managed software that's used in 24/7 live operations across multiple time zones, in different locations, that have required me to assess risks and make decisions quickly on a daily basis,” she said. “I think that kind of environment just breeds a competitive edge.”

Brown said he applied after he saw how previous Kessel Runner’s who had attended the program returned with a much greater understanding of how their industry partners operate.

“It seems like a once in a lifetime type of opportunity to embed yourself into an industry that is typically very, very selective,” he said. “The type of insights you can parce from this experience, and bring back and enhance the DoD -- are amazing.”

He also said he believes his experience from working at Kessel Run greatly contributed to his ability to get selected for the program.

“I blame Kessel Run entirely for getting selected,” he said. “Kessel Run has been great about giving me the opportunity to really explore different areas of expertise that I typically would have never been able to explore in a traditional program office.”

The Air Force Life Cycle Management Center’s Detachment 12, also known as Kessel Run is a DevSecOps unit focused on providing software solutions warfighters love. Kessel Run has a proven track record in enhancing efficiency, saving cost and modernizing the way the Air Force operates with its agile software development.

In light of that fact, having personnel from Kessel Run attend professional development programs such as the Defense Ventures Program; is inline with its mission to rapidly deliver combat capabilities to warfighters and revolutionize the Air Force software acquisition process.

“Kessel Run is a fanatic about bringing the DoD into the 21st Century,” Slagh said. “To me, it's fairly obvious that a lot of folks would apply. But it also speaks to the quality of the unit; how many people are getting accepted.”


Dylan Brown

Capt. Dylan Brown


Capt. Dylan Brown was one of two Kessel Runners recently selected to attend the eight-week-long Defense Ventures Fellowship scheduled to take place August through October. Brown is the Division Innovation Chief and Government Engagement Lead with the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center’s Detachment 12, also known as Kessel Run. (Courtesy photo).




Rachel Braun

Rachel Braun


Rachel Braunis one of two Kessel Runners recently selected to attend the eight-week-long Defense Ventures Fellowship scheduled to take place August through October. Braun is a senior product manager with the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center’s Detachment 12, also known as Kessel Run. (Courtesy photo).





Mike

Mike Slagh


Mike Slagh is the founder and CEO of Shift. Two Kessel Runners were selected for the next eight-week-long Defense Ventures Fellowship scheduled to take place August through October. The Program is a Small Business Innovation Research Phase 3 program run by the San Francisco based company Shift and overseen by AFWERX. The Immersion Program is funded by the Department of Defense, and focuses on connecting DoD personnel with industry and venture capitalists in a shared learning environment. (Courtesy photo).