Led by former DoD digital chief and backed by ex-Google CEO, Rebellion Defense opens Seattle hub – GeekWire
Seattle is not exactly known as a hotspot for national security software startups. But Matt Shobe hopes to carry forward the region’s history of defense-related work with Rebellion Defense, a year-old Washington D.C.-based startup that recently opened a new office in Seattle.
Shobe, a veteran Seattle-area entrepreneur, joined Rebellion Defense last year and is heading up the company’s Seattle engineering hub.
Rebellion Defense is led by co-founder and CEO Chris Lynch, another longtime Seattle tech leader who moved to D.C. in 2015 to launch the Pentagon’s Defense Digital Service (DDS).
As director of the DDS, Lynch worked under three defense secretaries and helped lead the $10 billion JEDI cloud contract procurement process, along with the Hack the Pentagon bug bounty program. He departed in 2019 to launch Rebellion Defense.
The startup has attracted investors including former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, who was chairman of the DoD’s Innovation Board in 2016 and is on the company’s board. Kleiner Perkins, Venrock, and Lupa Systems are also investors.
Rebellion develops machine learning and AI products related to data analysis, cybersecurity, and communications. It sells to government clients including the U.S. Navy and U.K.’s Ministry of Defense.
The idea is to take the experience and know-how Lynch and his colleagues absorbed inside government teams, and apply an agile software development approach that prioritizes speed.
Rebellion sees itself as a strategic partner that offers a software-as-a-service “pay for what you get” model, versus the traditional defense procurement process based on upfront payments and delivery promises that may not be met.
“We know how to build software that scales, and we know how to do it the right way with a pricing model that goes against that convention,” Shobe said.
Rebellion has attracted more than 60 employees who have experience across the tech sector. Some tech companies including Google and Microsoft have faced employee unrest over involvement with military-related work. Google pulled out of the JEDI process because it could have conflicted with its AI principles.
Rebellion faces the potential for similar pushback from employees or job candidates.
“If the mission of serving national defense inspires you and it also ties into what you want to do as a designer, as a customer success engineer, as a developer, as a product person, as just an American or U.K. citizen — this is a unique opportunity to help rethink how software gets delivered and be part of the team that goes and gets it done,” Shobe said.
Shobe previously co-founded Spare5, which turned into Mighty AI and was acquired by Uber last year. He also spent time at AngelList, BigDoor Media, and Google, which acquired his startup FeedBurner in 2007.
Shobe originally met Lynch back in 2012 through a “GeekWire Mudders” Tough Mudder team. They kept in touch over the years and when Rebellion was looking to open a Seattle office, Shobe was in.
He pointed to defense work done in Seattle by companies such as Boeing, as well as nearby military bases in the region.
“There’s a lot of history of Seattle building for defense,” Shobe said. “We want to carry that forward into the 21st century.”