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🔮Interview with Lambda Automata CEO, Dimitrios Kottas
Interview with Dimitrios Kottas, CEO of Lambda Automata, a new European AI-first defence company, who this week raised a $6m seed round led by Air Street
Five lessons from the Telecoms bubble
A video series on Virtual Power Plants
Humanoid robots update
Lambda Automata: the AI-backbone for Europe’s Civil Protection
Lambda Automata just raised a €6m seed round, to become an AI-first European defence prime. The round was led by Air Street Capital with participation from 201 VC, HCVC, Marathon Ventures and I also invested through my new investment firm (more on that soon).
Why I am excited about Lambda?
Lambda’s vision is to be the intelligent, AI-backbone of Europe’s civil protection systems 🇪🇺
Domain awareness at scale is really hard - monitoring vast areas of land whether for forest fire detection or border protection is largely done by human sight, analysts looking at live visual data streams
The initial product, Outpost (video here), can autonomously surveil large areas of land 24/7 using commodity cameras that are powered by solar panels
Interview with Dimitrios Kottas
SC: Tell us about your own personal journey?
I’m Greek, though spent 12 years in the US in both academia and more recently as an Engineering Manager at Apple.
I am an engineer, by training, with significant experience in mobile robotics. Relevant publications I have co-authored while in academia have over 1.3K citations. Problems I have worked extensively on, either while in academia or the industry include: robot localization and mapping, GPS-denied navigation, place recognition and target tracking.
SC: After so many years at Apple SPG, what drove you to start Lambda Automata?
The harsh realization that more and more non-Western regimes are investing, without any moral reservations, aggressively in the weaponization of emerging technologies, e.g., lethal drones.
Gradually more and more people realize the urgency for a renaissance of the defense industry in the West. This is key for our democracies to maintain their technological edge and hence their deterrence capabilities.
Unfortunately, as we have seen over the last couple of years, this is particularly true in the European continent. Ensuring we maintain the technological edge and deterrence capabilities of European democracies, is the main motivation behind Lambda Automata.
SC: What are the challenges of building a company that is both in software and hardware?
Building systems that closely interact with the physical world, involving hardware as well as software, has various “sweet” challenges. “Getting out and testing” frequently drives development and user experience. It is however dramatically more challenging than traditional pure software development, given it involves interactions with human operators, as well as the physical world.
SC: The European security landscape is fragmented, though increasingly spending on new capabilities. What do you think about these challenges and opportunities?
Definitely, the challenges that come with building in Europe (e.g., with respect to manufacturing, or the limited supply chain for certain parts, or the market fragmentation) make the “baseline” business case a bit more challenging.
Those same “hard” constraints however will drive the development, by design and not necessarily by intent, of efficient yet effective products. Those products will definitely be of value not just to Europe but to the global market of the Western alliance.
SC: You’ve been deployed in Greece over the summer, for forest fire detections - what insights did you get from that problem and deploying Outpost?
We started with small-scale deployments, while currently growing the number of installed systems. The importance of frequent iterations with end-users has been key for driving improvements in our user experience and products.
SC: Defence investing in Europe has been a sensitive topic until recently. What has your experience been whilst raising capital and how are you thinking about some of the ethical bounds of what you’re building?
The way we defend ourselves is no longer an academic question. War is evolving rapidly and it’s no longer something that just happens in other parts of the world.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine and terrorist attacks in Israel have demonstrated both the threat to western democracies and the shifting nature of advantage.
We’re a mission-driven organization and strongly believe in western, democratic values. The alternative in Europe is either allowing people who don’t share those values to monopolize this work or giving up altogether
SC: What are the key roles you’re hiring for?
We are currently growing our engineering hub in Athens, while we are setting up an office in London. Some challenging, yet leading roles for our London hub include a Business Development Lead and ML Lead.
SC: Thank you Dimitrios! For more details on the roles you can check-out Lambda’s careers page here.
📣PSA: the next RealTech Conference is taking place on November 22nd in London, we’re in the process of finalising some awesome speakers, and we’ll keep you updated.
As a reminder, the conference aims to connect and elevate Europe’s frontier tech startups, founders and operators.
Join us - If you’d like to attend and have not attended or signed up before, please apply here.
⚡️Energy and Climate
Virtual Power Plant video series (Benjamin Larralde)
I stumbled upon a great resource on Virtual Power Plants
This is a hugely interesting space, as we move from centralised fossil fuels to decentralised renewable energy generation
VPPs work as software networks - aggregating electricity (producers), consumers and storers that grid managers can call on to balance electricity demand and supply
Scientists discover metals which repair themselves when cracked (Scientific American)
GM are building electric vehicles for the battlefield, video (Defense News)
Nvidia and Foxconn to build “AI factories” (FT, paywall)
🌍 Policy and Geopolitics
You may not remember the roll-out of telecom networks in the late 90s/early 00s. I do, I remember being excited for 2G → WAP → 3G, colour mobiles etc. More importantly, the laying of this infrastructure has been critical to internet penetration, mobile and cloud
In many ways, that network hardware rollout provides lessons on what to do and not to do. This is particularly relevant to the current deployment of GPU capacity and potentially renewable energy infrastructure
Exponential growth projections for the internet and data demand created a "gold rush" mentality and overinvestment in telecom infrastructure
Despite capacity shortages during the boom, supply eventually caught up with and exceeded demand. The overbuilding of fiber capacity led to a dramatic glut
The high capital intensity of building networks increased the risk of a bubble, given the large upfront capex required.
Telecom companies took on high leverage, which compounded the impact of the bubble bursting.
Consolidation and the benefits of scale drove a wave of mergers in a quest for size and scope:
🦾 Manufacturing and Robotics
Figure released a teaser of their humanoid robot progress
We’ve previously tracked the intensifying race among humanoid robot producers
Whilst Figure is moving fast, they seem to be some way behind players like Apptronik and Agility Robotics, the latter this week released a clip of their Digits robot being used in an Amazon warehouse